Works: Analysis

Analysis

The determining factor is the degree to which my intervention can transform the structure into an act of communication.

Gordon Matta-Clark

Corinne Diserens, The Greene Street Years, in Gordon Matta-Clark, exhib. cat., IVAM Centre Julio Gonzalez, Valencia 1993, p.360

The whole progression of lines is a geometric progression…from line to plane to various kinds of planes to volumes to something…beyond the volume…

Gordon Matta-Clark

Judith Russi Kirshner, Non-uments, in Gordon Matta-Clark, exhib. cat., IVAM Centre Julio Gonzalez, Valencia 1993, p.366

As they stripped away cosmetic layers Matta-Clark’s subtractions revealed layers of information, histories of construction and stratification. In the place of the usual architectural containment and closure they allowed for an opening, an unfolding; in order to do [sic], these deconstructive gestures invoked a negative dialectic of undoing.

Judith Russi Kirshner

ibid.

The study diagrams of Gordon Matta-Clark are simple, continuing a sensibility formed in Minimalism. The physical moves necessitated by his work are also of a simplistic nature; lines, cuts, slices, excisions. The execution of these gestures is always large and dangerous, in scale with the structures thus transformed.

Matta-Clark realized these diagrams, almost drawing them with the chain-saw, through and upon, into walls and floors, beams and columns, retaining the original architectural elements sufficient to maintain the structure, to keep the buildings standing, if even on the apparent verge of collapse. Glimpses through, across, or into the structure, hitherto closed to sight, were made possible through openings as often slim as they might be wide and unobstructed.

Matta-Clark’s first building cuts, exemplified by the series called Bronx Floors (1972-3), were controlled by a sense of timidity. The very first architectural cuts of Matta-Clark, made in a piece called Sauna (1971), involved simply the slicing through of a door and frame. These were not guided by any philosophical ideals, but were simply a continuance in the mode of earlier artistic methods. With Bronx Floors, Matta-Clark cut away that which had previously maintained an insistent privacy. The removed sections of floor and wall became objects in their own right, assuming a greater significance. These cut pieces were able to direct one’s attention to the structures, buildings that are the setting for everyday life.

Splitting was a pivotal work, where the ideas expressed in Bronx Floors assumed a much greater scale, the attention directed towards the whole house, rather than a specific element. The removal of the four corners of the house, just beneath the eaves, was in a way detractive from the immediacy, and impact, of the bisecting slice. Even so, the symmetry and simplicity of the single cut was a powerful statement on suburban life, and the social class that the house represented. These stereotypical views implied by the house were almost negated by the cut.

Bingo was almost a confirmation of the piece Splitting, but with Day’s End, Matta-Clark’s cuttings became more complicated, now being driven by compositional ideas of overlapping arcs and lines, producing cuts which continued across plan and elevation.

The circle and the sphere now became dominant compositional elements, and the cuts extended through the whole of a building. The boat-shaped cuts in Office Baroque became a motif, played on each floor of the building, and through the roof.

Whereas in his earlier works, the cuts were simply used to display what otherwise could not be seen, Matta-Clark’s cuts became the dominant features within the building. The void became greater than the solid, for example, in the piece Circus, or Caribbean Orange, where three spheres, the width of the building, were inscribed. The layering and overlapping of the cuts marked an increased complexity, a boldness that could almost be described as conceitedness in Matta-Clark. His skill was such that the cuts were no longer dictated by any feeling for danger in the execution of the work; almost anything was now possible. One wonders how Matta-Clark’s cuttings would have developed if it was not for his untimely death.

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