Francisco Moreno Reflects on The Chapel at Erin Cluley Gallery

Simone Sutnick

Photography by Kevin Todora

Francisco Moreno creating The Chapel. Courtesy of the artist and Erin Cluley Gallery.

Just in time for the 10th year of Dallas Art FairCultured caught up with Francisco Moreno to talk about his work The Chapel at Erin Cluley Gallery. Along with other new works, the installation is on view from April 7 to May 19. The Mexican-born artist shares the inspiration behind the immersive painted structure as well as his advice on how to connect with the creative energy of the fair.

What is the story behind the The ChapelI was inspired by a 2016 visit to the Prado Museum in Madrid where I saw the 12th century mural paintings of the Hermitage of the Vera Cruz de Maderuelo. In 1947, the fresco paintings on mural were transferred from their original location in the municipality of Maderuelo to canvas and reconstructed at the Prado in a layout as faithful to the original as possible. The experience of the thoughtfully hand-painted space was beautifully overwhelming, ultimately inspiring and I knew that I wanted to recreate this experience. The fact that the murals are displaced from their original location felt peculiarly familiar, as I have been perplexed by notions of the transnational identity since 1992 when my family left Mexico City in order to relocate Arlington, Texas. I’m interested in exploring and developing ideas of a transnational identity via notions of labor applied through history painting as an installation and/or exhibition.

Francisco Moreno inside The Chapel. Courtesy of the artist and Erin Cluley Gallery.

Can you talk about your thoughts on this synthesis of the historical and the contemporary? I’m interested in engaging in the past as well as making a new mark. I think it feels real when we acknowledge the past as we approach the future–there is something beautiful about that. In particular, my experience in Mexico City has been seeing the Aztec architecture alongside the colonial and the contemporary, all coexisting together. There is a realness to this. It puts our existence into perspective.

In what ways is The Chapel influenced by Baroque? Baroque can create an overwhelming, dizzying feeling and cause a heightened sense of awareness. I wanted to create that sensation with The Chapel.

Francisco Moreno. Courtesy of the artist and Erin Cluley Gallery.

Is there a statement being made about access or appropriation? Since 2012, I have been interested in using icons as foundations for my large scale painting projects. In The Chapel, I am using an iconic structure. As a Mexican-born American citizen, my identity as that of a transnational citizen continues to influence my work. I pull from an archive that references ideas that traverse through borders, an abstract allegory for my identity. Inside The Chapel, I paint imagery from a collapsed archive that draws on a range of works significant to the history and practice of painting, sculpture, architecture and cultural producers more broadly.

The Chapel crosses the boundaries of painting, sculpture and installation; how does this immersion change the experience of the work? By experiencing an all encompassing structure, you become aware of your body.  You are forced to look up and around. Much like the Mexican murals and the chapels that have inspired this work; the sound, space and air quality become heightened because of your physical awareness.

What is on your “Do Not Miss” list for Dallas Art Fair? Artists are going to be present at openings, events, and the fair. Get to know them. Have a drink with them.  Visit their studios and learn about what is going on in Dallas.