Loraine Moore, “Citadel,” ca. 1978

Students in Prof. Siddons’ “Art Since 1960” class had the chance this spring to write about a work of art from the OSUMA collection, featured in the exhibition, “Sharing a Journey.” The assignment entailed looking at a work of art for at least 45 minutes, and to write about their close-looking experience, followed by interpretation. Janet Williams wrote about Loraine Moore’s Citadel from 1978. The following text was excerpted from her paper by graduate teaching assistant Michelle Rinard.

In The Citadel, Loraine Moore uses a greyscale grid to represent an industrial scene. It is an emotional piece, evoking feelings of distance and coldness. Its resemblance to an old factory building conjures thoughts of urban blight. Moore’s techniques appear, like her image, to come from an earlier time. Her use of the grid, popularized in modern artwork, does not reflect the postmodern movement that was flourishing when The Citadel was created. The piece serves as a powerful example of how simple things, such as color and lines, can be melded together to provoke strong emotional responses.

Loraine Moore (American, 1911-1988), "The Citadel," 1978. Etching and aquatint, 17 1/2 x 26 3/4 in (plate). Gift of Charley Miller, 2013.008.016.

Loraine Moore (American, 1911-1988), “The Citadel,” 1978. Etching and aquatint, 17 1/2 x 26 3/4 in (plate). Gift of Charley Miller, 2013.008.016.

The Citadel is striking from first glance to last. It is a large grid shape on a dark background. Moore uses a series of large horizontal and vertical lines interspersed with smaller ones to create a block shape in the center of the picture. On the left side of the artwork, small horizontal lines are used to create a series of stairs, making the picture more representational than it initially appears to be. Similarly, an elevator depicted in the lower left corner prevents The Citadel from being completely abstract. The color adds to the industrial feeling of the picture as well; Moore’s choice to use a greyscale theme evokes a coldness that would not present in a more colorful picture. The artist makes use of the colors by placing her grid on a centered gradient of sorts. The picture transitions from dark to light as the eye moves closer to the center. Moore used etching to create a scratched texture, further adding to the emotion of the piece.

Moore’s use of the grid is the most outstanding feature of her artwork. Her use of a series of large horizontal and vertical lines creates an incredibly ordered appearance. The extreme structure of the lines further contributes to the industrial image. A single diagonal line on the right side of the image breaks the conformity of the other lines, adding interest to the picture.

Moore’s use of a greyscale theme immediately confers an image of age, adding to the haunted look of the scene. The lack of color is reminiscent of old photographs. This contributes to the distant appearance of The Citadel. In addition to the emotional impact of greyscale, its use serves as another technique to add depth to the grid. The picture is darker around the edges, gradually lightening to white in the center. This effect is especially striking because of the colors. The edges seem to disappear into nothingness, making the bright center stand out and catch the eye of the viewer. Furthermore, the black emptiness contributes to the abandoned feeling of the piece. The brightness of the light parts calls to the mind harsh florescent lights, acting not as a comfort but as a tool to the make the picture even colder.


About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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