The walls of CFA’s Round Room caught the eye in the past few weeks. Instead of hosting their traditional paintings there were now pipes, cogs, and vacuum filters mounted on plywood or appearing to be connected and continuing through the walls and floor. Matt Moyer, the artist, came to Knox this past Friday to talk about his show, “Monuments to Water and Air Systems.”
Born and raised in Illinois, Moyer’s work involves industrial themes. The third generation in his family to work as a part of the plumber and pipefitter’s union, Moyer acknowledged the impact this history has on his art.
“[My] blue collar upbringing has influenced my work at lot,” Moyer said. “It’s very important to me, paying homage to those roots.”
For Moyer, parts of those roots include the industry that helped build the nation. His work tends to be very abstract, using machinery such as cogs and filters in rigid, geometric shapes. He will sometimes place his pieces on steel tables, providing further interaction with industrial materials.
“I’m flabbergasted and in awe of complex machines,” said Moyer. “It was a point of pride, building this nation, building these skyscrapers.”
An aspect of industry that has fascinated Moyer extensively is patina, a sheen that can build up on surfaces, especially industrial surfaces, over time. He started playing with patina after seeing the interior of a factory that had been closed and cleaned out—the floors, work from years of people and heavy machinery, displayed vibrant patina markings.
“I want to super enlarge the details of patinas,” Moyer said. He felt that layers of patina, built up over time, are effective at communicating ideas of time and history.
“Everything in our lives is affected by time and shows our interaction with it,” said Moyer. “Things that have survived throughout history and have a certain longevity should have a certain weight.”
Moyer works with ceramics in addition to sculpture. Many of his works involve attaching heavy, yet delicate clay elements to metal pieces, as he tries “to blur the lines between steel and clay- how they’ve interacted with one another.” He has also explored extensively the relationships that can be developed between a kiln, its fire, and the pieces inside.
Most of the materials from his work come not from stores, but the real world. Citing the words of an old professor—that one shouldn’t “ever use a material the way you found it. Change it in some way”—Moyer dislikes plain PVC pipes. Instead, he is fascinated by things such as old factory parts with years of lime buildup. He once stumbled across a box of $2 air filters at a garage sale and now “can’t imagine what I would have done…if I hadn’t stumbled across [it].”
Moyer saw a unique opportunity in displaying his exhibit at Knox. Because many of his pieces are long and designed to be installed horizontally, it was hard to set them up properly on the curving walls of the Round Room. Moyer instead attached the pieces to plywood and then hung the entire complex.
“The opportunity to use plywood was always something I’d kind of been thinking of,” said Moyer. “It’s one step closer to construction instead of raw gallery walls.”
Many of Moyer’s pieces appear to run through these gallery walls. He values bringing the industrial pipes and air vents to the forefront of people’s consciousness because it brings a reminder that even famous art galleries rely on such things to run.
“These water and air systems trump even the gallery,” he said. “The systems command a presence that I try to activate by bringing it to the forefront of the space. It’s an integrated interaction.”
For Moyer, it truly is an interaction.
“My goal is that people feel comfortable enough with the work to touch it, get their fingers dirty, maybe smell it,” said Moyer. He wanted people to realize that the elements in his sculpture “had a life before it became sculpture.”
Although he has this message in mind, Moyer also remains open to each person’s individual perception of his artwork.
“People have their own set of ideas that they walk away from the work with,” he said.