Artforum | 2012
Artforum: “Matthew Moore: Phoenix Art Museum”
By Joseph R. Wolin, May 2012
Matthew Moore grew up on a farm near Phoenix, in desert that was increasingly encroached on by suburban development until the recent burst of the housing bubble. His latest installation, And the Land Grew Quiet, 2012, centers on this personal history and the vicissitudes of our relationship with the land on which we live.
In one large gallery, white walls carved in low relief tell the story abstractly as they progress from organic lines suggesting schematic natural topographies, to grids of surveyed parcels of land, to plans of residential neighborhoods filled with concentric streets and cul-de-sacs. Ticker tape printed with stock prices from market crashes and with quotes from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath unspools from slots in one section of wall, while, attached to another, the pendulum rods of metronomes seem to mark the time between cycles of boom and bust. In the center of the room, eight wooden pedestals display rollers holding long scrolls of paper embossed with ghostly writing by both the artist and his grandmother about their family’s generations of life on the farm.
A second rooms contains only the framing for a tract home—the skeleton of a half-built house, really—that lists and appears to sink into the floor. Slightly larger than life (its studs are actually painstakingly crafted enlargements of two-by-sixes and other lumber), it stands uneasy and vertiginous, a viscerally affecting materialization of real estate speculation halted mid-construction. But it also evokes a ruin, quietly equating our rapacious appetite for using up the earth with the fall of empires in the past. A committed regionalist with a universal scope, Moore makes his personal confrontation with the vagaries of land use and economic downturns into a melancholy mediation on human folly.