It’s fun to think about Brenda Moore’s girly-girl dreams of horses, palaces and sailing ships in contrast to the boyish dreamworld that dominates Chicago painting. Imagine a magnificent mare lying on its back in a canopied bed, its hooves kicking up toward the ceiling of the palatial bedchamber. It’s not too hard to guess what this fantasy is all about, and most of Moore’s images, even if personal, seem quite accessible, presented in a visual style that seems to be seeking clarity and precision. Even if the horses appear in dreamlike situations, they’re not like the toys painted by Marc Chagall. Moore actually rides her own horse, Scootch, and is a student of animal anatomy. Moore is also a student of historic European narrative painting, especially from the nineteenth century. But the lifelike depiction of complex narrative scenes with costumes, architecture and multiple human figures and animals is quite a challenge for the best artists of any age, and this work feels a bit awkward where you might wish it felt more elegant. Some of these works are inspired by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, but to compare the two is a bit painful. Though the artist is perhaps ambivalent about her fantasy life, and possibly prefers it to appear odd and shabby, as if it is something that she is outgrowing, especially now in this series, which, she tells us, is a response to the loss of her father, an artist, writer and teacher. Ambivalence is important because it precedes change, but in the arts, conviction can be much more enjoyable, and I really wish she had fully drawn and painted a beautiful horse in a beautiful bedroom, or just left it as a simply drawn sketch in pencil, ink or encaustic, like the memorable image she created of horses swimming with line-drawn figures of ships, instead of developing it as a photo-collaged blurry sketch. The artist seems to be straddling a variety of realistic, idealistic and surrealistic styles that are legacies in our omnivorous art world, and hasn’t yet decided which one she is going to ride to the winner’s circle. (Chris Miller)
Through October 20 at Linda Warren Projects, 327 North Aberdeen
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