Originally published in Art in America, March 1999
Randy Moore at John Berggruen Gallery
Randy Moore explores the fluidity of identities in various media by inserting himself or his insignia into popular cultural characterizations. This exhibition is part of the intriguing "Perspectives" series (many of the shows curated by Moore) that have energized the fourth floor of the venerable John Berggruen gallery.
Moore's inquiries into the building and breaking down of identity appear to begin with him spelling out rhyming variations of his first name in "Name Play", (24" x 26"; 1993) using already chewed gum on encaustic. After eliminating the letters after the R, encircling it to portray the registered trademark- ® ("R (3)", 27" x 26" & "Registered", 25" x 24" both masticated gum on encaustic from 1993) things really begin to take off. Moore's work comes alive when he recontextualizes the ® symbol into the emblem of Robin (as in Batman) by donning the cape and thereby the persona of the boy wonder.
Displayed in a Plexiglas vitrine, "R Suit" (1993-94), is a life-size recreation of Robin's outfit complete with black leather mask, green leather gloves and shoes, red shirt with prominent R on the chest and gold satin cape. Moore puts on this outfit and becomes the model for (self) portraits ruminating on the myth of the would be super-hero and his frequently less than heroic exploits. In several small red ink on paper studies from 1996, Moore becomes Robin after-the-villain-got-away or when he is chastised by the Bat (see the latest film version - "Batman and Robin"). Also diminutizing the mighty myth are "Untitled (R Studies)" (1995), six 3" x 3" shadowy black and white photographs of Robin/Moore climbing bridges, scaling buildings and then (free) flying/falling off those structures.
The R then upends and perverts. Moore turns the ® upside down to signify the Playboy symbol. [Can you put an upside down R here? - or the Playboy symbol?] Boy wonder puts on the bunny ears and becomes a Playboy with pathos. "Untitled (Inverted R)" (1997-98), 36 graphite and ink 8" x 10" rough drawings on stained paper hung side by side in a 6' x 6' grid portray Moore in Robin wear as passive, dejected, inert, oftentimes armless (like the figure wearing the outfit in the vitrine) and with fluffy rabbit ears. Another series employing the Playboy theme but with a cool detached look are four 4' x 4' white on white paintings. These encaustic, acrylic gel and pigment on wood pieces ("Playboy Wonder #1 & #2" and "Registered #1 & #2") all 1998, wax and wane ideas of celebrity, sex and money with their word and image plays on the registered symbol, dollar sign, the Playboy bunny character and different configurations of the words Play, Boy and Wonder.
But perhaps the most straightforward and clear disintegration of the fantasy of the wonder boy occurs in "Action 6" (1998), a 20 second video of Moore in "costume" sans ears. He jumps off the walk-way bridge in SFMOMA, speeds downward in a head-on shot and crashes onto the marble floor. Robin/Moore then turns upward exposing a bloodied nose, successfully dashing and unmasking pop-culture and art world fictions in this show which is pointedly called No Title.
- Amy Berk