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Parallel worlds: time and transformation in the work of Gregg Moore.

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GREGG MOORE'S BODY OF SCULPTURAL WORK Is A meditation on time and metamorphosis. For GMoore, "Nature's life force alters human production in the same way that it transforms the natural environment over aeons." He is intrigued by science--his background in geology providing perhaps the most profound influence upon his work. Here he eschews the separation of art and science as motivating and explanatory systems for understanding the process of creation.

Moore's inspiration is geology and paleontology. Thus his fascination with "the stratigraphy of culture and the stratigraphy of nature". Both provide a venue for exposing the surface and form to reveal what lies below. Moore offers the viewer a chance to move to a deeper level of reflection: the underlying structure of a built wall (Eroding Wall), the shards of human creation or nature's detritus (Facade Wall). His constructed geological and domestic environments reveal the transformations wrought by time. He finds decay conceptual, probing surfaces and facades to reveal structure and dirt. "Dirt," according to anthropologist Mary Douglas, "is matter out of place." Moore incorporates dirt, that unruly matter, into his aesthetic frame offering a conceptual plane through which artist and viewer can create structure out of chaos.

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Although Moore's sculptures are diverse in themes and materials, he explores domestic and natural environments in a unified body of work that resists categorization. His sculpture ranges from domestic vessels that are refashioned into collections, unified by mathematical principles and primary colours and re-imagined as the gigantic with its vast interior spaces. As Susan Stewart says, "The gigantic becomes an explanation for the environment, a figure on the interface between the natural and the human." (1) His geologically inspired work indicates that creation in both the domestic and the natural environments are susceptible to the same processes.

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A wall that becomes a landscape is the experience created by a Wall Terrain which offers the viewer an example of the interface, literally and figuratively, of the man-made and the natural landscape. An unlit wall erupts subtly into the space of a gallery: finger textured bisque clay bubbles seamlessly painted into a white wall to startle the viewer into recognizing her own inattentiveness to the environment. As the viewer passes the stylized landscape one does not see the texture and dimensionality of the wall but learns it is better seen only from another vantage point, the rear of the gallery.

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With perspectival shifts such as this, Moore heightens consciousness, creating transformations in attentiveness that occur when one overlooks an element within our viewing range. Hopefully, that experience will create "greater awareness of that piece and others' in the viewer's space.

Human and geological time are scrutinized as Moore strips away surfaces; he chisels through the earth's crust to the sedimentary layers formed by gases, minerals and other particulate elements or offers chinks to permit a view of his interiors: walls, vessels, even of history by depicting interiors or layers of sedimentary rock, fossils, shards, fragments, wooden beams and enigmatic and impenetrable hidden spaces. The Human Condition is a stark white cabinet constructed of plywood and patterned wallpaper as panes of glass. The cabinet is aloof and self-contained, isolated from other objects by its brusque boundaries. The panes are opaque (offering us no view of the interior); their repetitive pattern of identical leaves domesticates nature. "Pattern imprisons nature," Moore said, deposing the natural world's idiosyncrasies and aberrations.

Thematically similar though aesthetically and conceptually distant, The Miner's Canary Project presents another form of degradation and imprisonment: Bright yellow birds and luminous coal become metaphors for human consumption and desecration, a pillaging of nature. "The colour brings you in" to The Miner's Canary Project, an ongoing series of sculptures whose focal point is an assemblage of enamelled bright yellow birds. Ironically, the effect of the birds' dazzling colour is similar to the visual delight of a wedding cake: an architectural confection celebrating union and heralding life. Here instead, the representations are lifeless, strewn in carefully layered pyramids and piles in cages or on top of them--their colour emblematic of the canaries used by miners in their search and seizure of one of earth's fossil fuels: anthracite coal. The colour is signage for an abstraction leading us finally to the detrimental effects of human interaction with the earth, a representation of the spoilage of human habitation and our dependence upon solar energy.

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It was one of his encounters with rocks and fossil remains that suggested to him the story of a genocide; traces of natural or human disaster in which ancient life forms were extinguished leaving an imprint of their existence. The miners' canaries like their counterparts (ancient fossils) are victims of such disasters, one day to be discovered, or not, by other probing eyes. Moore's sculpture envisions and monumentalises the carnage.

Captive, the canaries warn of danger. No longer useful, the inert birds discarded by their human captors are heaped in a communal grave. But Moore's work alludes to the question of who is captive? At one moment it is the birds that are caged by their human counterparts, men gouging the earth for valuable energy; in the next, it is the miners themselves who may be trapped in their descent into the earth. Finally, it is our dependence upon fossil fuels that imprisons us.

Moore's use of colour inverts our usual expectations of the hues. In some of the pieces the birds rest upon their cages while lustrous black coal is contained within a wooden or metal frame. Coal becomes a metanym for humankind's attempt to constrain and dominate nature. The visual contrast is stark and stunning. It is the vibrancy of the black coal--pure energy--its shimmering complexity that suggests life, while death is symbolized by a deeply saturated monochromatic yellow.

In this sculpture of abstracted and unvarying shapes, the birds suggest trophies or placards deprived of the freedom of their nature; the idiosyncratic is eschewed for the power of numbers lost in human history and geological time. Noticeably, the birds share colour and form; there are no individuating characteristics distinguishing one bird from another. It is only their position in the mound that suggests discrete bodies.

Oscillating between aesthetic and psychological terms, simultaneously accessible and resistant to the human gaze, Moore's sculpture is primary and primal. Using a primary palette, he invites the viewer to regard his art but simultaneously places a barrier between viewer and work. Consider the alluring red blocks that attract the viewer (Untitled Red Slabs). The viewer is drawn to the warmth of the colour. A shimmering and translucent veneer, however, prohibits closer inspection, prohibits touch. Although the lustrous cover adds a dimension of light to the objects, they signal distance in the face of accessibility.

Although Untitled Red Slabs distance the viewer from the object of its gaze, Moore is able to translate abstractions and classificatory systems into visual representations that the viewer can apprehend. Captivated by the elegance and aesthetics of mathematics Moore uses prime numbers, algorithms, and colour to unify forms that have little in common. Sixteen archetypal objects, large and small, oblong and circular, are united by the use of a primary palette (Archetypal Objects [Blue]) and in this way the functional and the abstract are also united. In both, the vessels are unsuitable for daily domestic use but alluring/intriguing as aggregates. Repetition also functions to unite this work.

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Gregg Moore's sculpture captures in stunning visualizations, the passage of time and arrangements in space. By counter-posing opposites in his work we are asked to question the perceived differences between the practices that separate and connect art and science and different forms of the material world, natural and cultural. We are invited to witness the erosion of matter into its essential elements and the processes of transformation by which we create.

FOOTNOTES

(1.) Stewart, Susan. On Longing. Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore and London: 1984, 71.

(2.) Douglas, Mary. Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. Penguin Books: Baltimore, 1966.

Janet Theophano, PhD is adjunct faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, US. She teaches classes in material culture, anthropology, communication and folklore. She is the author of Eat My Words: Reading Warren's Loves through the Cookbooks They Wrote (Palgrave, 2002) and co-editor of Diet and Domestic Life (Temple University Press, 7997). Her interest in ceramics was sparked by her research into women's lives and the aesthetics of the everyday. Gregg Moore studied geo-science, environmental science and studio art at Skidmore College. He earned his Master of Pine Arts degree from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. He lives outside of Philadelphia and teaches at Arcadia University where he is an Associate Professor of Art and Design and head of the ceramics program. (www.greggmoore.com)
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Author:Theophano, Janet
Publication:Ceramics Art & Perception
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2009
Words:1473
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