Magazine article Artforum International

Tracey Moffatt: Museum of Contemporary Art

Magazine article Artforum International

Tracey Moffatt: Museum of Contemporary Art

Article excerpt

Back in 1992, in a note to an overly earnest museum curator, Tracey Moffatt wrote: "As an artist, I have never been on a mission to educate. If people are racist, sexist, homophobic or out of step with issues I say bad luck. Let them stay dumb. Art exhibitions do not aid in correcting prejudice, not a bit." Moffatt's best works--the unforgettable twenty-five photographs that compose the series "Up in the Sky," 1997, first shown at her Dia Center for the Arts survey that year, and her earlier, breakthrough "Something More," 1989--are clear-sighted, bleak, and luminously global in conception. They disavow any sense of a regional celebration of place and evade the antiseptic link between redemptive art and identity that the unfortunate curator had wanted to establish. Even so, Moffatt's photographs and films focus on interracial tension and tragic, cinematic love--grand ethical allegories about social connection. In Up in the Sky #1, 1997, for example, black-clad nuns ominously emerge from an indeterminate desert waste toward a mother and child; there's no clear narrative but a spectacularly artificial, carefully choreographed, hyperdetermined surplus of cues and hot issues. Memorably iconic, indeterminately sexy, profound image grabs are Moffatt's great gift.

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Moffatt's worst photographs, on the other hand, include her two recent series, "Fourth," 2001, pseudopainterly portraits printed on canvas of athlete losers, conceived in the wake of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and "Invocations," 2000, a fluorescent-ink, overheated morass of swirling witches, lost children, and B-grade art-house movie starlets falling through the aesthetic safety net. Add to this reject list her recent video compilations made with Gary Hillberg, Artist, 2000, and Love, 2003, and you'd be forgiven for forgetting the driven intensity of her own 35 mm films, Night Cries--A Rural Tragedy, 1989, and beDevil, 1993, traces of which persist faintly in her vampiric surfer documentary, Heaven, 1997. …

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