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David Moreno Text


I think of you as a painter who occasionally makes sculpture and sometimes takes photographs. How did you come to use photography?
In the late ’70s, while an undergraduate at the University of Arizona in Tucson, I saw David Lynch’s film, Eraserhead. The film is shot in black and white—very dark, atmospheric and surreal. At the time this was a huge inspiration to me, and shortly afterward I began setting up my own darkroom and shooting 35mm black-and-white film.

A number of your works reference sound and recording(s). Did working with sound usher in the use of the camera?
No, it may have been the other way around. Shortly after beginning to use the 35mm camera, I began making Super 8 films and recording sound. While primarily painting and drawing, I was definitely seduced by the ability of the camera and the sound recorder to capture and manipulate visual and acoustic events.

What’s your interest in spinning and the circle?
These elements have popped up in my work since the very beginning and probably derive from a childhood fascination with spinning tops and spinning oneself dizzy.

Cameras are made for stationary use, isolating and dissecting a section from something. You set the camera into motion and record a short film within a static moment. How did this perversion begin? Was there some one or thing that specifically inspired it?
I first built the rotating mount for a 16mm movie camera after rotating the camera by hand and deciding that a more precise circular motion was needed. The movie films shot with this technique were almost, but not completely, abstract. This suggested to me the possibility of using a still camera with its longer exposure time to completely abstract the subject.

Do you select a subject based on knowing or making a reasonably guess about the end result?
I have only a limited notion of what the outcome of an exposure will be. It is very difficult, before setting the camera in motion, to look at a subject and attempt to visualize the end result.

What’s the success to failure rate of your photos?
Only a very few images turn out successfully, sometimes one or two images per roll and sometimes none.

Art photography has developed technologically in the last few decades in terms of color quality, extra large scale, and a myriad of rather invisible postproduction techniques, yet we recently find you using a 35mm camera, photographing in black and white, printing on old-fashioned paper, matting your photographs, and using the sizes equated with traditional photography. Why look back?
The look of my photos could be approximated with a computer and photo-editing software. However, I’m intent on including my body and hand in the process so that the image has a sense of corporeal truth. The decisions that follow from this about the type of printing paper etc. seem consistent with my desire to maintain a human scale and touch. The trend in art photography you describe could also describe the practice of commercial photography. Is this really looking forward?

Frequently technology and the hand are pitted against each other. Your work most always exhibits a sense of hand yet often also introduces aspects of technology. How do you see the relationship of the organic / corporeal to the synthetic / technological?
In a general sense, all technology is an expression of the body. Even if not always built by hand, a complex piece of technology is designed by human minds. The question of the relationship between the two becomes one of motive – why things are designed and how they are used. I’ve decided to use very basic mechanical means for my photographs because this seems most physically connected to the action of capturing an image with a camera.


Especially at this scale, why not canvas and paint?
We usually attribute less historical gravity to works on paper, with drawings being seen as secondary or supportive to paintings. This lack of gravity is becoming increasingly appealing to me. The relatively ephemeral nature of paper seems to reinforce the kinds of imagery I’m working with which also have a transitory quality.

What inspired these very specific and limited color combinations?
I’m always attracted to the sense of immediacy and directness of drawings. To convey an idea directly and efficiently is an aspiration of mine. Using limited graphic means is one way to keep an idea focused, to keep the mechanism running smoothly.

Why the grid super-structure?
The grid is possibly the most multifarious of all visual structures, and in our increasingly digitized world, it can mean nothing or everything. One reference with the activation of the entire surface of the drawings is to a video screen and its matrix of light emitting elements. My rendering of this seems to be a kind of parody of the screen.

Motes, notes, music, theatricality?
Speaking of the ephemeral...music exists in time and gives form to time within a specific duration. This is an Art that mirrors, in an abstract way, our sense of what it is like to be alive. The challenge when working with static material such as paper, paint, etc., is to instill into it a quality of movement and duration, to vivify the inert.

What is your interest in the invisible, the empty full?
I can only say that when one desires to know something, that something always seems just out of reach (and may in time be understood or may not). My images verge on the nonsensical because this seems to be the only way to depict a state of desiring to know.

04.12.01 From an April 2001 group exhibition where all the artists were asked the same questions

Working in a series, are there moments when certain works seem conceptually or stylistically too close together, or too far apart? What do you do about that? How do you know when to stop a series? Do you sometimes feel or think that the many becomes one work?
I’ve been thinking about the individual elements within a series as being similar to the individual frames of a movie film. A frame captures a specific moment in time and, once recorded, these moments can be edited or rearranged into any number of forms. In this sense, the idea of one work always seems temporary or provisional.


We have another David Moreno exhibition which will seem unfamiliar to most viewers. Do you think the convention of a signature style and/or obvious continuity is important for an artist?
Speaking for myself only, this activity is an exploration based on a curiosity about the possibilities of the subjective and objective within a pictorial realm. One’s curiosity is seduced by the unfamiliar and sated by the familiar. Having the latter before the former would make for a very dull relationship.

Why polyester canvas?
It is a slightly strange surface having qualities somewhere between those of paper and the lithographer’s stone.

Your current painting ideas seem interested in drawing, and your drawing ideas seem interested in painting.
This question points to my fundamental interest in how an idea can be realized. I would like to show a shortened circuit between the hand and the mind because, in effect, there may not be a distinction between the two.

Is it my imagination at work, or have you consciously created a sense of magnification?
The sense of magnification is probably a result of the pressure of my forms generally exert upon the picture plane. Except for the resistance of this plane, the forms would prefer to escape and project outward. This seems to raise a question about the border between a fictional and a nonfictional space.

Are these paintings the end result of many, many sketches?
These images had a long gestation--in the form of drawing--of several years. Only recently has a shift in scale seemed possible.

What would you consider your typical subject matter?
It’s the search for the subject.

Movement seems to have been one of your ongoing interests.
Yes...well, everything is movement–that movement of the spheres thing.

How and why are you interested to use humor and cliche?
Cliche is a dominant mode of communication or exchange between people. Humor is one possibility of deforming cliche.

When you begin to make small sketches, do you proceed intuitively, start where you left off, or with something which continues to hold your interest?
Of course, at different times, all these possibilities are true.

Once you have an image or idea that clicks, do you explore its possibilities or do you use its immediate richness to explore the larger version?
The shift to a larger scale occurs only when a desire to continue with an image is frustrated by its present scale.

What about the dilemma of blowing something up?
I’m interested in the continued transformation of an image through a change in scale and not its mere transcription. Many times this transformation literally "blows up" and destroys an image. I suppose the painting Rubble could be seen as a visual metaphor for this process.


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