On a Friday evening in mid-October, artist Francisco Moreno greeted friends, artists,
and collectors at his Dallas Design District studio with a generous selection of artwork from the past few years.
He was saying goodbye to the beautiful open working space he had been invited to share with his friend and former colleague Thomas Feulmer, in which Moreno was presently the sole inhabitant.
They previously worked together at The Warehouse (which houses much of The Rachofsky Collection), where Moreno had been a gallery teacher (2012–15) and Feulmer continues as director of education.
As you passed through the front vestibule, a grouping of page-sized white panels depicted conglomerations of colored-ink expanded doodles, connecting Old Master subjects with the mundane in outlined,
shaded drawings, as striped crosswalks grow out of woven textiles and the steps of Aztec pyramids.
Within this combination of high and low, inspiration and play nail down the crux of Moreno’s artistic pursuit.
In the artist’s words: “how to negotiate the power of an immediate mark with a resolved painting (or artwork).”
Entering the main studio space, you were greeted by Bald Eagle Brawl (2019),
a vertical panel of flat cerulean blue enmeshed with ten bald eagles in midflight, with their claws, wings, and open beaks all angling for a piece of one another.
You’re only grounded by a cliff in the bottom right quadrant, which pulls everything slowly back to the Kimbell’s early easel painting of Michelangelo’s,
The Torment of Saint Anthony—minus the holy man being held aloft and with raptors replacing demons.
One of Moreno’s most recent completed works, the inspiration of the Old Master is easy to sense,
but the subject has mostly freed itself of the influence, pushing the artist towards his own domain of inquiry.
Moreno has long mined the annals of art history and pop culture for subject matter and inspiration, whether a direct lift, stylistic nod, or influenced color scheme.
Even this particular work by Michelangelo has been referenced before, in his exhibition From the Area at the Latino Cultural Center in 2015,
and other works pull from other notable masters such as Vigée Le Brun and Delacroix.
Similarly, the flat, bright blue of the background of Bald Eagle Brawl was somewhat inspired
by a trip that Moreno and Feulmer took to the Sistine Chapel almost a year ago,
Moreno seeking out the sky peeking through clusters of biblical notables.
There’s a curious resetting between the formal and referential concerns in Moreno’s disparate bodies of work, and he recognizes this clearly,
stating that his “graphic work is a relief from the historical narratives.”
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