Timely Lessons From a Rebel, Who Often Created by DestroyingSiguiendo con nuestra lectura de informacion sobre el contenido de la obra y configurando desde los recortes de periodicos de diferentes partes del mundo, tenemos un par de articulos que compartir. Aunque siempre la mayor cantidad de informacion proviene de nuestros propios margenes y de los sitios mas inesperados.
The Gordon Matta-Clark retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art should be required viewing for any architect born in the age of the computer screen. Few artists could match his ability to extract raw beauty from the dark, decrepit corners of a crumbling city. Fewer still haunt the architectural imagination with such force.
A trained architect and the son of the Surrealist artist Roberto Matta, Matta-Clark occupied the uneasy territory between the two professions when architecture was searching for a way out of its late Modernist doldrums. His best-known works of the ’70s, including abandoned warehouses and empty suburban houses that he carved up with a power saw, offered potent commentary on both the decay of the American city and the growing sense that the American dream was evaporating. The fleeting and temporal nature of that work — many projects were demolished weeks after completion — only added to his cult status after an early death in 1978, from cancer, at 35.
The show brings home just how cleverly he challenged the high priests of architecture who, in Matta-Clark’s mind, inhabited a world of lofty abstractions divorced from the physical reality of everyday life. That critique is newly resonant, when even the most radical architectural ideas are quickly gobbled up by the cultural mainstream and take on the slickness of advertising slogans.
For architects, Matta-Clark’s status as naughty boy is linked particularly to “Window Blow-Out” (1976), a series of bleak black-and-white photographs of vandalized housing projects in the Bronx.
They were conceived for a 1976 show at the Institute of Architecture and Urban Studies in Midtown Manhattan that was intended as a showcase for the range of architectural visionaries who were then thriving in New York, from Peter Eisenman, with his deconstructed Cartesian grids, to Michael Graves, already engaged in dabblings in neo-Classicism.
To Matta-Clark, the meticulously rendered ink drawings of such architects conjured the idea of omnipotent figures hunched over drafting tables, each spinning out his own version of a doomed utopia. His photographs of smashed windows, testifying to the failed social and architectural policies of 1970s New York, were intended as a rebuke to such deadly abstractions. To underscore his point, he crept into the gallery late one night and blasted out several windows with an air rifle, establishing himself as a delinquent outsider and a hero for young architects.
Three decades later, however, what stands out is not so much Matta-Clark’s somewhat naïve ideological stance as the wonderfully raw quality of the work itself. One of the most entrancing pieces at the Whitney is the crude homemade video “Splitting” (1974), which shows the artist carving through the various floors of a quintessential suburban American home, literally splitting it in two. The act evokes the disintegration of the American family, as well as more personal trauma. (The old Matta, a less-than-supportive father, once spat on one of his son’s artworks.)
Yet its strength lies in the way it conveys the act of building, especially the violence. The physical process becomes more important than the final perfected vision. Shirtless and sweaty, Matta-Clark and a laborer are shown rhythmically hammering away at the house’s foundation and straining at the lever of a jack. As one side of the house is gently lowered, a split appears down its center, pierced by a narrow beam of light.
The sense of exertion and carefully focused energy brings to mind that marvelous scene in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” in which camp laborers race to built a perfectly level wall, driven by their own sense of pride rather than the whip of the camp guard. It is a quasi-mystical experience, as well as an antidote to the cool abstraction of bureaucrats and intellectuals.
That theme of transcendence through the ordinary is reinforced in Matta-Clark’s choice of subject matter: abandoned buildings and warehouses that, after his transformations, were usually demolished and forgotten.
In “Conical Intersect” of 1975, for example, the artist carved a series of circles into the abandoned shell of a town house in the working-class section of Paris, alongside the skeletal frame of the Pompidou Center. The cuts work on many levels, creating a sense of physical and visual instability, opening up unexpected views and even, at times, suggesting a sniper’s nest. They are also a play on the Enlightenment notion that light and air would wipe away the squalor of the medieval ghetto.
The cuts are also about texture: the raw edge of the wall — exposing ripped wallpaper, plaster and stud walls — becomes more important than the finished surfaces. They sensitize the viewer to the world around them, to the structural and social glue that holds disparate elements together. (If the show has a weakness, in fact, it is that it doesn’t fully exploit that theme; it’s too neat.)
Similarly, in “Day’s End,” Matta-Clark cut a big, eye-shaped opening in the back wall of a warehouse along the West Side piers in Manhattan (a favorite S&M haunt in the 1970s), allowing a blazing light to spill into the cavernous interior. In one of the most striking images of this project, the cut-out portion is suspended by chains in the warehouse space, giving a powerful impression of its weight and scale.
By contrast, one of the quirkiest works here is “Fake Estates,” a conceptual project in which Matta-Clark purchased from the city leftover bits of land whose small sizes and odd proportions made them impossible to build on and worthless as real estate. In collecting and photographing these patches of dirt and asphalt, Matta-Clark redeems them: a collection of castoffs and misfits that draw attention to the city’s forgotten corners.
For me, the least intriguing works are those in which Matta-Clark is seemingly straining to create something more lasting. The streaks of color in some of his Cibachrome images, for instance, appear slightly overworked — an attempt to add enduring value to an art whose meaning springs partly from its innocence.
We’ll never know, of course, what career direction a mature Matta-Clark might have taken. But his surviving critique seems vitally relevant today. We can now detect similarities between Matta-Clark and architects of his generation like Mr. Eisenman, who also took up arms against the architectural mainstream, though from the sanctuary of academia. Each, in his own way, offered an antidote to the mind-numbing historicism that would dominate American architecture in the 1980s.
Matta-Clark’s vision still beckons at a time when architects are again searching for ways to escape the abstractions that threaten to stifle their art. The input of a talented delinquent seems more necessary than ever.links
AMERICA has a rest, where you want to be