Painter Explores Paused Moments of Black Lives in Exhibition

The Arts and Science Center of Southeast Arkansas will host a reception Mar. 3.

A Black women with blue hair and Black men with orange hair stare at each other in this Carl E. Moore painting
“Mr. & Mrs. Black America,” acrylic gouache on canvas, 12 inches by 24 inches (diptych), 2020, is one of the works in “PAUSE. People, Places and Scenes by Carl E. Moore.” — Courtesy Photo.

The characters in Carl E. Moore’s latest exhibition are dealing with different situations, but they all have one thing in common — they’re in a paused position in their lives. Moore loves the narrative, which prompts the viewer to question what it is the Black figures are waiting for.

“They’re waiting for the repercussions of something that has happened, or they’re waiting for the next thing that’s going to happen or they’re just in this paused position of life,” he says.

In the Black community, people are often awaiting news of the latest police shooting or negative statistics about women’s health and children’s education, Moore says. These waiting moments are captured in PAUSE. People, Places and Scenes by Carl E. Moore, an exhibition featuring more than 30 pieces from the Memphis painter’s recent body of work. The show is on view now at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas in Pine Bluff.

headshot of Memphis painter Carl E. Moore
Carl E. Moore — Courtesy Photo.

Originally hailing from Mississippi, Moore attended the Memphis College of Art where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in art and studio practice, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in illustration, graphic design and painting. Moore’s work deals with color and identity, and his goal is “to compare social ideologies about race, stereotypes and belief systems to everyday colors and the perception of these colors in our environment.”

Color drives the scene in Moore’s artwork, which features flat imagery. The Memphis-based artist says he’s very conscious of what color goes next to another. His paintings often depict Black individuals surrounded by thick, colorful outlines that pop next to the characters’ rich, dark skin. Noting the negative connotation associated with the color black, Moore instead embraces the color in his art.

“I wanted to work with black, but my goal was to give you a subject and give you a theme that caught your attention so much that you did not pay attention to the color of the characters,” he says. “Matter of fact, I wanted you to treat the characters as if you’re concerned about the situation the characters are in.”

This Carl E. Moore painting depicts a Black man in a long-sleeved purple shirt leaning against a doorframe while a Black woman sits in a chair in the room behind him reading a magazine with the phrase “A Storm is Coming” on the cover
“A Storm is Coming,” acrylic on canvas, 48 inches by 48 inches, 2020, by Carl E. Moore — Courtesy Photo.

One topic the characters are awaiting is news of another murdered African American. A departure from his typical paintings, Headline is a sculpture made from neon lettering that reads “They Shot Another Black Man Today.” The artwork was derived from a flag that read “A Man Was Lynched Yesterday” and hung outside the NAACP headquarters in New York City in the 1920s and 1930s. The powerful statement and its relevance today inspired Moore to create his neon artwork in 2021. 

“It’s the headline, it’s a relative headline and it seems like it’s a headline that’s still happening,” he says.

While some of the realities captured in his artwork are painful, Moore says it’s a truth. The artist strives to paint everyday things, momentary occurrences that are examples of a paused event. They’re snapshots in time that Moore presents in a factual manner. In that way, he views himself as a bit of a historian. 

“I think my role as an artist partly is my personal statement, partly is an archivist, partly just as an artist of my time creating what I see around me,” he says. 

PAUSE. People, Places and Scenes by Carl E. Moore is on display through Apr. 30 at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas. A joint, drop-in reception for PAUSE and Meikel Church’s collage-based collection Was It Ever Real?, is scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. Mar. 3.

More information is available at www.asc701.org.

Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is Editor-in-Chief of Arkansas Soul, the host of the Affirmative Action podcast and an Arkansas-based journalist. She has covered race, culture, politics, health, education and the arts for NPR affiliates as well as print and digital publications since 2007.