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Art & Art History

Moira Dryer

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Monday, January 06, 1997–Saturday, February 08, 1997

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“I have utilized the tradition of reducing geometric painting but I ’ve never been interested in it as a pure form of abstraction. Instead I thought of it as a language to combine with other painting languages . . . ”
—From the artist ’s journal

The retrospective of Moira Dryer ’s work at Gallery 400 is the first exhibition of its kind in Chicago. After graduating from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where she studied with Elizabeth Murray, Dryer became a successful New York painter in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before her five-year battle with breast cancer cut her career short. The ten works exhibited at Gallery 400 were created between 1989 and 1992, Dryer’s most productive years. The artist focused predominantly on creating abstract paintings through layering ethereal washes of paint over large squares of wood, evoking emotional landscapes of both longing and play, accentuated by sculptural elements or objects she sometimes affixed to her canvases. In the early 1990s she also began to fashion larger canvases covered in vertical stripes, exemplified in the painting Frontline. According to Ellen Steinberg, “These works are exemplary of the artist ’s conflation of abstract painting conventions and added hardware to infuse her work with narrative, irony and emotion.” Moira Dryer was born in Toronto in 1957, and died of breast cancer in May 1992.


Moira Dryer

Card, 1989
Acrylic on wood, 46 x 48 in.

Frontline, 1991
Acrylic on wood, iron, 95 x 96 in.

Mt. Mirage
, 1991
Acrylic on wood, 80 x 72 in.

Number 3,

Part II of the Tourist, 1990
Mixed media (painted fabric and metal handle), 13 1/2 x 24 in.

Random Fire, 1991
Acrylic on wood and cardboard, 133 x 84 in.

Signature Painting #2,
Acrylic on wood, 17 1/2 x 28 in.

True or False II, 1990
Acrylic on wood, 31 1/2 x 65 in.

Untitled, 1992
Acrylic on board, 60 x 84 in.


Moira Dryer (1957–1992) was a Toronto-born abstract painter who lived and worked in New York City. Dryer’s distinctive painting method involved applying diaphanous washes of either casein or acrylic paint to big squares of wood, creating veiled, undulating patterns that could suggest an open landscape, the sea, or a soft freehand tapestry. Her colorful paintings, often incorporating elements of pattern and repetition, hearken back to American color field painting, referencing the work of Morris Louis and Clyfford Still. Since the early 1980s, Dryer’s work has been included in numerous group exhibitions in museums and galleries around the country. Her first solo exhibition was held in 1986 at the John Good Gallery in Manhattan, and there were subsequent solo shows at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, the Fred Hoffman Gallery in Santa Monica, California, and the Mario Diacono Gallery in Boston. Dryer graduated with honors from the School of the Visual Arts in New York City in 1981.

Image: Moira Dryer, Vanishing Self-Portrait, 1990.


Steinberg, Ellen. “Moira Dryer.” New Art Examiner, Apr. 1997, p. 46.


Moira Dryer is made possible by the School of Art and Design, the College of Architecture and the Arts, and supported in part by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. Gallery 400 would like to thank Jay Gorney and Rodney Hill of Jay Gorney Fine Arts for their assistance and the generous private collectors without whom this exhibition would not have been possible.


Postcard: Moira Dryer