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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Gordon Matta-Clark

1970's downtown scene New York...

An action-oriented conceptual artist who self categorized himself as an anarchitect – experiments with the removal and relocation of parts of abandoned buildings, his work occupies the space between fine artist and architecture.
The concept is similar to deconstructivism; a postmodern movement within architecture.
Deconstructivism arouses a notion of structural manipulation into limitless non-rectilinear shapes. It is a maverick amongst society, unsympathetic to the logical, conformist practise of architecture.


Gordon Matta-Clark was born in New York City raised by his mother American artist Anne Clark. His father Chilean Surrealist painter Roberto Matta Echaurren who abandoned the family shortly after the birth, maintaining an intermittent relationship allowing Clark to grow up in the social environment of his parents creative associates.
Roberto Matta Echaurren studied architecture and worked for Le Corbusier in Paris. Le Corbusier or Charles-Édouard Jeanneret the founder of modern architecture "was a pioneer in studies of modern high design and was dedicated to providing better living conditions for the residents of crowded cities."1
GMC like his father also studied architecture, enrolling in 1962 at Cornell University an establishment recognised for its strong Corbusian influence. 
 In 1968, Matta-Clark relocated to Paris to study French literature at the Sorbonne. There, he witnessed the revolts of May 1968, the event of enormous political and social significance in contemporary history that left a lasting impression on the young artist. It was in Paris where Matta-Clark became aware of the philosophical movement of Deconstructivism, with its innovative concept of détournement” 2 - “the re-use well known media to create new work with a different message often opposed to the original.” 3

Gordon Matta Clark produced a series of works known as 'Bronx Floors' in which he dissected the floors and walls of abandoned buildings. By fragmenting integral parts of a structure it allows us to anatomise the living standards, and urban decay of New Yorks boroughs. The physical implication of this process "is a reaction to an ever less viable state of privacy, private property."4
Properties, especially in run down areas such as the Bronx are plagued by crime, which only further devalues the social condition of the area. However this is purposeful, as the longer it is left to deteriorate the quicker the point of no return is reached. Only then society will step in to redevelop these enclosures into the retail park they desire to further boost a greedy economy. Anarchitecture is more complex than offering an alternative attitude to functional space, its delves into the metaphoric gap of the undeveloped spaces "The interest or value wasn't in their possible use...on a functional level that was so absurd as to ridicule the idea of function"5

Bronx Floors

'Splitting' One of Gordon Matta Clarks most famous works in which he bought a house in Englewood, New Jersey and stripped it of its contents until it became an empty shell.
A one foot incision was made into the roof of the house continued down to the foundations, splitting exactly in half, appearing as though the house was sat on a fault line. Each half fell back on itself slightly to show an opening through the centre. 
From the side, the house looked entirely normal, it was only when you moved round that the fault line appeared. Clark was predominantly interested in sculptural aspects of stratification, how the surface began to break into numerous layers and in such "reveals the auto-biographical process of its making."6  As a consequence of this deconstructionist process a variety of new surfaces were exhibited, generating unique views. 




The powerful commentary of his works lies in the act of the deconstruction, the process is more important than the void left behind, which could be interpreted as destructive and violent rebellion, and not a justified contempt toward contemporary culture. The process of dissection acts as performance art, within an urban jungle. In the same way pedestrians ponder the purpose of a construction site "the openings stop the viewer with their careful revealings."7 Normal structures look at the overall design, the beauty of the finished product. GMC analyses the development of the original structure in relation to purpose, era. The reverse of a finished product, opening an enclosure up to the world for scrutiny, unveiling elements of space in a world of rectilinear shapes, "a poetic critique of architecture and urban space." 8
Gordon Matta Clark encompasses a wide range of artistic and cultural movements; Deconstructivism, Postmodernism, Formalism and to an extent Dadaism. In that his work is a rejection of an oppressive society, the failed ideas of modernist architecture and the formalism movement, which greatly occupied 1960s America. He is the “antidote to the cool abstraction of bureaucrats and intellectuals”. 9


Websites  - (Ref1)

Dereliction of Beauty, pg 60, Vanity Fair, January 2011, no 605, Graydon Carter. ed. Annie Holcroft. Pub - (Ref 2,3,9)

Barbican Centre, 2011, Laurie Anderson Trisha Brown Gordon Matta Clark Pioneers of the Downtown Scene New York 1970s, Curated by Lydia Yee, London, Prestel

(Ref 4, 6, 7) -  page 107
(Ref 5 ) - page 138
(Ref 8) -  Page 93

Images - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4  - 5 -  6

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