Arts Listings

Compositions of Space and Light

By Peter Selz, Special to the Planet
Friday June 22, 2007

Michael S. Moore’s acrylic paintings at the Graduate Theological Union are images of landscapes as symbolic order. They are pictures of vast desert landscapes, of large empty spaces along the Nevada-Oregon border as well as of the Colorado plains. It would seem that the canvases are based on watercolors which are shown in display cases below the paintings. 

Many of the watercolors done with vigorous exuberance, showing mountains and swift clouds, were made in Snake Creek Desert and Fox Run in Northwest Nevada near Pyramid Lake. The large horizontal paintings are silent images of vast, almost empty areas, wide expanses with only an edge separating earth from sky. 

The colors are muted, the earth is bleached by the sun and there is no motion in the limit-less, time-less land and sky. No life is visible. These paintings recall the nuanced abstracted landscapes which Gottardo Piazzoni painted a hundred years ago. But they have surely been informed by geometric abstraction. 

In a beautiful polyptych, “Spring into Summer” (2005), the hills of spring on the left are painted in grays, browns and ochres. As the view moves to the rights, as Spring becomes Summer, the sky blends from blue to white and we can feel the great heat of the desert sum. 

The “Guano Valley Triptych (2006), done in the high spacious desert of southern Oregon shows brown cliffs in front of low-sweeping gray mountains. These pictures could not have been done en plein air, but must have been painted by the artist meditating, brush in hand, on his experience of the desert to frame his perception of space and light. 


Freddy Chandra, exhibiting currently at Kala Art Institute, came to the United States from Jakarta, Indonesia in 1995 to study architecture and the art at Berkeley. He too deals with space and light in his art. But, belonging to another generation (he was born in 1979, six years after Michael Moore had his first solo exhibition) he uses very different tools for his art. 

“Three Minutes from Now” (2007) is a time-based installation with nine-channel digital projections built in a wall which the artist created as part of the structure. It is, he wrote in his statement, “An abstract rhythmic composition that evokes experience taking place on the periphery of our consciousness: spatial, visual and aural.” 

Nine DVDs of different size project light into nine separate tinted blocks. As the light is projected it changes intensity and color, barely suggesting gray, blue, green, pink and yellow tints. The viewer, especially after having seen Moore’s desert landscapes, may associate the light images with remembrances of sky and ocean, but this narrative element is not what Chandra had in mind. What we witness is a time-based architecturally integrated composition, which can indeed recapture experiences in a way not so different from music. But, as in Moore’s paintings, it is a visual response to light and space as well as time. 


“Absence Presence,” paintings by Michael S. Moore, at the Flora Lamson Hewlett Library, Graduate Theological Union, 2400 Ridge Rd., through Sept. 5. 649-2500. 


Works by Freddy Chandra as part of “Residency Projects, Part I” at Kala Art Institute, 1060 Heinz Ave., through June 30. 549-2977. 


Image: Freddy Chandra’s “Three Minutes from Now” (2007), is a nine-channel digital projections built in a wall which the artist created as part of the structure.