Donald Moffett

Throughout his career, Donald Moffett (b. 1955; San Antonio, TX) has fused formal experimentation and social commentary to produce an expansive, provocative oeuvre that interrogates both the individual body and the body politic. In multi-dimensional paintings, drawings, prints, and installations, Moffett exposes the urgency of contemporary political and social concerns, from the AIDS epidemic to climate change. Often working serially, Moffett has cultivated a distinctive visual language, imbuing minimalist, abstract forms with personal, political, and metaphorical meaning. Moffett’s practice subverts traditional assumptions around painting and abstraction, employing innovative techniques and unexpected materials to disrupt the surface of his works. 

 

The artist’s current series, NATURE CULT, centers the theme of environmental degradation at the hands of governments and industry. Beginning with the Spore paintings of the mid-2010s, NATURE CULT employs a wide variety of imagery sourced from nature, and a range of rich colors to hint at the precarity of our natural order. Perforating, puncturing, or carving the panels into a kaleidoscope of organic forms and finishing them with luminous epoxy resin or a mass of extruded oil paint, Moffett produces an ominous record of our world’s biological diversity under dire threat of extinction. Moffett’s gesture in the NATURE CULT works is at once violent and poetic, provocative and heartening: he renders the  extremity of ongoing environmental crisis—the ripping apart of the natural body—with a startling clarity and uncanny beauty. 

 

Moffett’s interest in the body began early in his career—and has remained a constant theme across decades of work. He emerged in the 1980s as an artist and activist in the ACT UP movement, a founding member of the collective Gran Fury, and a founding partner of BUREAU, where he developed an understanding of the political potency of art in social and political movements. With early works like He Kills Me (1987) and Call the White House (1990), Moffett exposed the negligence of political power toward those affected by HIV/AIDS. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Moffett’s interest in bodily concerns manifested in the formal elements of his practice. In two significant series from this period, Fleish (2006–2008/2020) and Flayed (2007–2014), sober canvases operate as surrogates for the body. Cutting, spreading, flaying—and sometimes healing—the surface, Moffett creates surprisingly refined orifices and poetic, abstracted allusions to human anatomy.  Moving seamlessly from a human body ravaged by disease—both biological and political—to a body of nature ravaged by climate change, Moffett continually points to the urgent crises of our time with a keen political eye, formal innovation, and unexpected beauty.

 

Moffett's diverse and formally innovative practice has included painting, as well as sculpture, installation, photography, drawing, prints, and video. His work is included in the collections of the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; The Menil Collection, Houston, TX; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY and the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY. Moffett has had solo exhibitions across the United States at Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin, TX (2014 and 2016); the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX (2015); the Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, OH (2012); Anthony Meier Fine Art, San Francisco, CA (2001, 2004, 2007, 2011, and 2018); and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, TX (2011), which traveled to the Tang Museum at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY and The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, among others. His work has been included in major group shows such as Greater New York (2015) at MoMA PS1, New York, NY; America is Hard to See (2015) at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; and ICA Collection: Expanding the Field of Painting (2013) at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, Boston, MA. His work was recently on view in DONALD MOFFETT + NATURE CULT + THE McNAY at the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX. Moffett lives and works in New York City.