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Artist Mario Moore Bridges Untold Stories of America's Past and Present at GRAM

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'Mario Moore: Revolutionary Times' on view April 27 – August 18, 2024

/Mario Moore, American, b. 1987. Birth of the Cool, 2023. Oil on linen. 72 x 48 inches. Courtesy of Nick Cave and Bob Faust.

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Enjoy free admission to GRAM every Tuesday (12 - 5 pm) and Thursday night (5 - 8 pm). 

The newest installment of the Grand Rapids Art Museum’s (GRAM) Michigan Artist Series, Mario Moore: Revolutionary Times, opened at GRAM on April 27, 2024. On view through August 18, Revolutionary Times brings together three recent bodies of work by Detroit-based artist Mario Moore, including large-scale paintings, silverpoint drawings, and works on paper. In these works, Moore bridges America’s past and present and illuminates stories buried or ignored in Americans’ collective understanding of history. 

It has been an honor to work with Mario Moore on this exhibition and to witness his incredible talent and creativity. His highly realistic paintings radiate with warmth and life. They also prompt viewers to consider our country’s past and what legacies we’ve inherited from it,” commented GRAM Curator of Collections and Exhibitions Jennifer Wcisel. ​Many of the subjects in this exhibition are family and friends who Moore has painted as revolutionary historic figures, like Lucie and Thornton Blackburn who fled to Detroit to escape enslavement in the 1830s. These paintings deftly collapse the past and present and bring the viewer into these important histories.” 

Revolutionary Times begins with Moore’s series, A New Republic, in which he revisits the remarkable role Black Union Soldiers played in salvaging our nation during the Civil War. The series was sparked when Moore learned of an ancestor — Thomas Moore — who was enslaved as a child and later enlisted in the Union Army. Though his works are deeply rooted in history, Moore uses contemporary subjects to tell the stories of Black men fighting for a country that did not recognize them as citizens. By placing present-day figures in historical contexts, Moore highlights the persisting racial and political divisions in America. 

I am really excited about these bodies of work in Revolutionary Times, especially considering the state of the world and America,” commented Mario Moore. ​For me, this work at the Grand Rapids Art Museum asks the public to consider Michigan’s important place in American history and in turn, the current times that we face as a nation.”

The second section features works from Moore’s series, Midnight and Canaan. The title refers to code words used by anti-slavery abolitionists and freedom seekers on the Underground Railroad (Midnight for Detroit, Canaan for Canada). The series explores the history of Black people in Detroit, their contributions to the city, and their efforts to help others escape bondage. 

The exhibition concludes with A New Frontier, a body of work that looks to an earlier time in Detroit’s history when French colonists first established the fur trade along the Detroit River. The series uncovers the parallel growth of the slave trade and the fur trade, which relied on the labor of enslaved Black and Indigenous people. For this series, Moore again works with contemporary models to draw direct connections between historical figures and those who have inherited these legacies. 

Collectively, the works in Revolutionary Times celebrate Black power and resistance. They challenge us to consider Michigan’s Black pioneers and to contemplate the challenges, stamina, and willpower of Black people from the past – and question how the legacies of these resistance efforts prevail today. 

Visitors to the exhibition are invited to view Mario Moore’s bronze sculpture, Love, a new acquisition to the Museum’s permanent collection. Love is a portrait of the artist’s wife, Danielle, and his first bronze sculpture. 

About the Artist 
Mario Moore, a Detroit native, received a BFA from the College for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI in 2009 and an MFA in Painting from the Yale School of Art, New Haven, CT in 2013. Moore’s paintings focus on the personal, social, and political implications of our segregated society. Presenting stories of his own life and those of friends and family, Moore weaves in multiple references to history, art, politics, and literature to complete his narrative. He is a recent Kresge Arts Fellow (2023) awarded through the Kresge Foundation and a recipient of the prestigious Princeton Hodder Fellowship (2018 – 2019) through Princeton University. He also has been awarded residencies at Duke University, Josef and Annie Albers Foundation, Fountainhead, and Knox College. Moore’s work is in the permanent collections of but not limited to the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts, Princeton University Art Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, the Mott-Warsh Collection, Louisiana State University Museum of Art, California African American Museum, Flint Institute of Arts and The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. Mario Moore currently works and lives in Detroit. 

Related Programs 

Seeding Change: Resilience and Art in Black Health and Wellbeing 
Thursday, June 13, 6:30 – 7:30 pm 
Join experts from our Black health and wellness community for a community conversation on resilience and wellbeing. Building on Black history and stories of resistance in Revolutionary Times, the panelists will cover understanding historical trauma, ways to build resilience, and the positive impact of the arts on overall wellbeing. 

Mario Moore: Revolutionary Times has been organized by the Flint Institute of Arts. Lead Exhibition Support has been generously provided by the Michigan Arts and Culture Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, with Lead Exhibition Society Support from the Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation. Additional funding provided by GRAM Exhibition Society. 

About the Grand Rapids Art Museum
Connecting people through art, creativity, and design. Established in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, the art museum is internationally known for its distinguished design and LEED® Gold certified status. Founded in 1910 as the Grand Rapids Art Association, GRAM has grown to include more than 6,500 works of art, including American and European 19th and 20th-century painting and sculpture and more than 3,000 works on paper. Embracing the city’s legacy as a leading center of design and manufacturing, GRAM has a growing collection in the area of design and modern craft. 

For museum hours and admission fees, call 616.831.1000 or visit

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