Mario Moore: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Mario MoorePhoto by Justin Millhouse
“I don’t let anything stop me from making my work,” said painter MARIO MOORE (’09, Illustration), a native Detroiter who is now based in Brooklyn, New York.

“I grew up at CCS. I spent a lot of time with my mom [CCS alumna and multimedia artist SABRINA NELSON (’91, Fine Arts)] and her friends, and I would even sit in on her classes sometimes. I was always around it,” said Moore. “The museum was close, obviously, but it wasn’t necessarily about going to the museum. It was about seeing people make things.”

And Moore, who received his MFA in Painting from Yale University in 2013, is utterly dedicated to making art. His figurative paintings – often of black women – reveal his training in illustration but also a certain thoughtfulness around history, the black figure and the human encounter with art.

“People have asked me, ‘Do you think that you paint in a Eurocentric way, like the Italian Renaissance or the Baroque period? Why do you do that as a black person?’” Moore said. “But as human beings we take inspiration from all over and put it together. It just makes sense to me.

“I want my paintings, from a distance, to feel as if you could walk right into them. I want the narrative of the work to invite the viewer in and offer a kind of insight. But when you get closer, you realize that it’s just lines that come together. Because it’s not just about what is being depicted; it’s about how it’s depicted.”

That concern for materiality in painting (visible brush strokes, for example) and, on the other hand, Mario Moore: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop Above: “That Beautiful Color,” oil on canvas, 2016. Opposite: “Yeah G-Ma Don’t Play,” oil on copper, 2015. This dedicated painter looks to history to tell stories about how we live now. for how black people are represented in art, have brought Moore’s stunning work increasing attention. A painting from his copper series, “Queen Mother Helen Moore” (not pictured), which depicts his grandmother holding photographs of her three living sons, was exhibited in the Detroit Institute of Arts’ “Art of Rebellion: Black Art of the Civil Rights Movement” in Fall 2017 and recently purchased by the museum. “When you see black mothers on the news,” he said, “they’re usually crying holding a photo. But I wanted to contrast that to give a sense of their power and protection. So in my paintings they’re holding photos of their living children.”

Moore was recently in Detroit to attend the opening of his group show focused on figure drawings, “Evidence of Things Not Seen” at CCS’ Center Galleries. In Fall 2018, he will begin a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University. Moore is one of only five visual artists to receive the prestigious fellowship in its 74-year history.

Moore is currently working on a series of drawings, “Recovery,” depicting black men from the Civil Rights era relaxing or at rest. “James Baldwin went to Paris. Malcolm X went to Mecca. Muhammad Ali had to rest because he had his belt taken away,” he said. “Rest and recovery are really elusive for black men. The stereotype is that, if you’re sleeping or resting, as a black man, you’re lazy.”

Moore came up with the idea last summer after brain surgery, when he was forced to rest in order to recover. “As soon as I got out of the hospital, I thought, ‘I have to work.’”