Gordon Matta-Clark

Gordon Matta-Clark Photo

Gordon Matta-Clark was an American photographer and artist who lived from 1943 until 1978. He is considered among the most prominent artists of 1970s. His parents belonged to the art world as well as his brother, who committed suicide two years before Matta-Clark’s death. From 1963 to 1968, he attended Cornell University to study architecture. His childhood was divided in Chile, Paris and New York. An exhibition was held at Cornell in 1969, titled Earth Art. Matta-Clark constructed a Garbage Wall which emphasized his focus on architecture, art and activism. It was a prototype for homeless peoples’ shelter. Matta-Clark introduced himself to Robert Smithson and he assisted Dennis Oppenheim in two projects. He eventually began working on film, performance art, photography, drawing, sculpture, and image collage.

From 1969, Gordon Matta-Clark began exploring the metamorphic potential of cooking. He fried Polaroid photos with gold leaf in oil. In 1970s, he helped in organizing an exhibition, 112 Greene Street, showing innovative art. In addition, he collaborated with Robert Frank to work on a short film Food. It was directed by Frank. Food was a conceptual eatery by Carol Goodden’s and Gordon Matta Clark which was opened in New York’s SoHo district in 1972. It became a space for conversation and dialogue among the creative people.

Photoglyphs (1973) addressed New York’s pop culture by depicting the growing graffiti. The photographs were hand made in black and white. Through the 1970s, Matta-Clark created his most renowned work – Anarchitecture. Buildings that were planned to be destroyed, he used to saw and carve some parts of those buildings. These projects were recorded on film and photography.

Splitting (1974) was a work by Matta-Clark in which he operated in a house slated for demolition in New Jersey by splitting it form the center. The incisions were invaded with light. The artist photographed this work and made a print collage.

Day’s End (1975) was another project. In Manhattan, he chose a dilapidated pier. He continued for two months on this assignment, unnoticed but when his work was discovered, a lawsuit was filed against him by New York City. However, the suit was finally dropped.

In the same year, he made Conical Intersect for Biennale de Paris by cutting a hole through the walls of 17th century townhouses, in a cone like shape. A year later, he demonstrated an act of protest by shooting the windows in New York of the Institute of Architecture and Urban Studies. This act created controversies against him and it was interpreted as a reaction against the architectural organization.

In 1977, he documented the inner core of Paris and New York – the sewers, catacombs and tunnels. The project was supported by John Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Before his death, Matta-Clark’s work has been exhibited in several galleries such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1978; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1974; Neue Galerie der Stadt in Aachen, Germany, 1974; and Museo de Bellas Artes, Chile, 1971.

As of 1998, Gordon Matta-Clark’s estate was represented by David Zwirner. From April 2013, there was an exhibition held at David Zwirner gallery by the name Matta-Clark: Above and Below. Jessamyn Fiore was the curator of not just the event but she was also the co-director and independent writer of Matta-Clark’s estate.

During his lifetime, he worked on many projects and few of which are mentioned above. After getting married, Gordon Matta-Clark died young due to cancer.


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