The Best D.C. Art isn’t in D.C.

In the late 1990’s the artist Donald Moffett began making extraordinary paintings that seemed like a departure from the politically charged work that first garnered attention–and controversy–in protests against the Reagan/Bush-era AIDS debacle. Seductively minimal paintings where it seemed the material itself was the subject: oil paint extruded–somehow, the technique is hard to grasp–into lush carpets, finely woven nets, menacing razor-like bands. These highly aestheticized paint objects have a powerful physical presence.
Then last year, in a show at Marianne Boesky, Moffett completely transformed his paintings by projecting video–of The Ramble in Central Park–onto their silvered surface. The intricacies and painterly effects were still there, but deliberately harder to read. Meanwhile, the uneven surface of the canvas lent the slightly distorted video loops a ghostlike, immpermanent air. Questions of furtive, hard-to-pin-down identity filled the bucolic, elegant works.
Now through Saturday at London’s Stephen Friedman Gallery, Moffett is showing D.C., a similar body of paintings-and-projections, and it feels like one of the art world’s veteran protestors has come out of retirement, to show a new generation how it’s done. D.C.‘s projections feature the FBI building, the White House, Watergate and other loaded symbols of power. Definitely check out White House Unmoored, one of the few works where the artist used a handheld, rather than a fixed, camera. And read Moffett’s interview with Kultureflash; he’s one of the nicest, gentlest people I’ve ever met, but boy, does he sound pissed. [US pissed, angry. Not UK pissed, drunk. just to clear that up…]