Donald Moffett: Blue (NY)

September 17–October 29, 1997
Beaver College Art Gallery

Exhibition Postcard

The Beaver College Art Gallery is pleased to present "Blue (NY)," a selection of new photographs by artist Donald Moffett, on view from September 17 through October 29, 1997. The opening reception will take place on Wednesday evening, September 17, from 6:00 to 7:30 PM in the Gallery. Immediately following the opening reception, Moffett and interim gallery director Richard Torchia will introduce a screening of Derek Jarman’s Blue (1993, 76 minutes, 35mm) in The Little Theatre directly adjacent to the Gallery. The program will commence at 7:30 PM.

Installation view, Donald Moffet, "Blue (NY)", Beaver College Art Gallery, September 17–October 29, 1997

Moffett's exhibition at Beaver College — his first significant exposure in the Philadelphia area — introduces a new body of work that represent a departure in both method and attitude from his previous projects. Those earlier works, executed in a variety of media, consistently fused the detached elegance of minimal and conceptual strategies with an unmistakable political punch. The photographic prints that comprise "Blue (NY)" are distinguished by their (baffling) simplicity. Depicting cloudless expanses of sky above Manhattan, they range in hue from a seemingly improbably navy to a drained baby blue. Printed at various scales, presented both as vertical and horizontal rectangles, glazed and bordered by white frames, the pictures paradoxically appear flat and opaque (even object-like), yet convey a latent depth and translucency.

"Blue (NY)" distills traditional codes of abstraction and representation, painting and photography, sculpture and poetry to achieve a kind of historical inevitability. With the utmost economy, Moffett links the Modernist legacy of the monochrome (from its Suprematist inception, its re-emergence in the 1950s, and its numerous contemporary manifestations) via Steiglitz's Equivalents, to render the blue sky as both concrete record and abstract symbol of a persistent longing for the "ideal."

Lacking any traces of scale and devoid of any physical subject — save daylight itself ricocheting within the atmosphere — the pictures are potent with interpretive possibilities. Open and generous, they quietly extend Moffett’s long exploration of the dangers and complexities of being queer in America, planting these concerns firmly beneath what he thinks of as the “shared canopy of blue.” The pictures, in effect, locate a safe haven, fine weather, and ultimately, the promise of hope for a population the artist describes as “beleaguered by more than a decade of catastrophe and assault.”

“Blue (NY)” is funded by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Friends and Advisory Board of the Beaver College Art Gallery.


Moffett was born in San Antonio, Texas, where he attended Trinity University, receiving degrees in art and biology before moving to New York in the late 1970s. He began exhibiting his work in numerous group shows and one-person exhibitions at the Wessel O’Connor Gallery and Simon Watson. Last year he presented a “report on painting” (six small canvases) at Jay Gorney Modern Art. In addition to participating in exhibitions across the country, in Canada, and in Europe, his work was included in the (now infamous) 1993 Whitney Biennial and at New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art, The Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), and M.I.T’s List Visual Arts Center. Moffett was a founding member of the AIDS activist collective Gran Fury.