David Moreira: Passionate Abstraction — by Jonathan Goodman
The abstract works of New York artist David Moreira falls into three categories: (1) shaped abstracts, consisting of stretched rectangular canvases, usually quite colorful and materials-oriented; (2) iconographic works that take the form of painted labyrinths, whose subject matter is personal, moving in the direction of the archetypal, and is influenced by the thought of the maverick psychologist Wilhelm Reich; and (3) paintings on cloth napkins, pinned to the wall, which act as a bridge to three states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep. In all three bodies of work, the abstraction is psychologically oriented but also passionate—either as personal material or acquired form. Moreira is an artist strongly interested in psychic theories of a holistic self, and consequently has worked out basic gestalts that speak to his own development, both as an artist and a person.
Moreira’s inner drive thus finds correspondences in basic imagery such as labyrinths, which are themselves symbols of finding a lost self, and connect with ancient mythology as well. His rough surfaces are laden with personal inferences taken from symbols that echo across the history of consciousness. Sometimes the emphasis is formal, as in the colorful near rectangles of the shaped canvases; sometimes the emphasis is mythically significant, as happens with the labyrinth pictures; and sometimes the approach is improvised, a process recorded on the found napkins. Moreira’s skills are such that he has put together three ways of becoming more human, closer to his actual self, instead of clinging to the ego’s armor. His symbols are rough and encourage an identification with basic humanity; a fundamental passion for expressiveness is basic to his interpretation of the world, which is deeply meaningful to him in a self-actuating sense—and by extension to us, his viewers.
Indeed, the idiomatic imagery in Moreira’s art manages a three-way conversation—between the artist and his art and his public. As his audience we are taken with the keen creativity of his art, but that is not all that he wants from us. Actually, we are meant to participate in the process of his exploration and healing, in ways that cannot but help to affect our own psychic life. His abstractions both delight the eye and bring us closer to a true sense of self, in which effort and pleasure and joy are inextricably linked to each other. The shaped abstractions, composed as they are of many geometrical parts, offer color in abstract abundance, while the labyrinths are templates for mental survival. Finally, the napkin paintings offer a rougher form of self—it is if Moreira were picturing the id and its irrational wants. The trick that keeps all this work vibrantly alive derives from his passionate use of art as the leading edge of a journey open not just to him, but to everyone who sees the work.
Jonathan Goodman has written articles and reviews on contemporary art for The Brooklyn Rail, Art in America, Art Asia Pacific, and Sculpture Magazine. He teaches at Pratt Institute and Parsons School of design.
Studio Visit Magazine, The Open Studios Press, Fall Edition, Volume 13. Editor: Ian Berry