Lot 022405

04.02.2014

Uttered aloud or read silently, the title of this 2005 painting by Donald Moffett brings to mind a familiar scene—an auctioneer swiftly introducing an artwork as it is wheeled onto a well-lit stage facing a room filled with potential bidders, each with a paddle in hand, while a host of auction-house staff attend telephones and computers ready to place long-distance anonymous bids. The scene brims with an underlying choreography and suppressed energy and anticipation, the very kind that Moffett captures (only to contain and utterly quiet) with much of his work.

Moffett’s practice of titling his paintings and sculptures after auction lots, often with poetic subtitles, is as uncommon as it is oblique for such an established figure, yet it’s a satisfyingly humble and direct choice. The adoption of this practice also lends the work an elliptically balanced space for interpretation, where Moffett’s investigations of history, politics, the rights and freedoms of gay men and women, and the formal expansion of the nature of painting create complicated poetic, visual, and conceptual juxtapositions.

Lot 022405 was recently acquired by the RISD Museum’s Contemporary Art Department. The work engages and complements the Museum’s collection, which ranges from the critical and the illustrative to the abstract and representational to the highly conceptual and formally experimental. However, while fitting into the collection, Lot 022405 also expands formal techniques of monochromatic abstraction with its latent, yet potent, political and social implication.

Applied to Lot 022405 with a pastry-bag decorating technique is a thick coat of monochromatic silver paint made of innumerable tactile and delicate hair-like extrusions that give the painting an inherently sculptural quality. Furthering the sculptural form, a sensual protrusion, like a drop of water bouncing off of the surface of a lake or a fist punching through—yet still inside—the clouds, dynamically extends a surprisingly long distance from the center of the composition. This robust protrusion and the anything-but-minimal silver paint open a moment—or many moments—to contemplate enduring issues of love, social critique, innocence, sexual freedom, and the expansion of age-old forms of painting.

A. Will Brown
Curatorial Assistant, Contemporary Art