As an urban planner, Aldo Moroni is mostly an improviser. He crafts small buildings, along streets, near rivers, and up mountainsides. While there might be a preconceived story, the whole point for him is that his “civilizations” evolve through time. His sculptures are public in the best possible sense, in that they require conversation, repeat visits, and history for reference.
Moroni began shaping little buildings out of clay while a student, and this work led immediately to an exhibition at Walker Art Center. Charming on first glance, his miniature towns are more than just toys. Because they’re not accurate models, and because he often twists or bends the buildings, they comment on how humans build, fight, adapt, or succeed through their architecture. Moroni describes this work as “mock archaeology.”
He’s a tireless historian of civilizations, from ancient Babylon to modern cities. In 2010, he appeared daily during his McKnight Visual Artists Fellowship installation, called “Fragilearth,” to create new structures out of wet clay. All the while, visitors were welcome to chat with him and consider his philosophy, and learn from his research.
A multi-year installation project based on Babylon featured Moroni’s most dramatic strategy: destruction as performance. For three years, he hosted an annual ritual, which ended with him as mythical giant, stomping and slashing. Then he rebuilt his city, larger and larger, until an enormous Tower of Babel loomed over the site.