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Gordon Matta-Clark

(1943—1978)


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(1943–78)

American environmental artist, born in New York, the son of Roberto Matta. He studied architecture at Cornell University. In 1969 he met Robert Smithson, whom he assisted, and Matta-Clark's work can be regarded as developing the older artist's concepts of entropy and the site-specific by applying them to architecture. Comparisons have also been made with the Situationist attempt to undo the authoritarian power of urban space. His work usually took the form of making cuts into buildings which had been scheduled for demolition, so linking inside and outside. An example is Splitting in Engleswood (1974), in which he used a house from which the tenants had been evicted to make room for a housing estate that was never built. The house was cut in half, with a split which tapered to a point at the bottom. Matta-Clark had a critical relationship to architecture, especially to that of the Modern Movement, which he saw as a device for social control. He was invited to participate in the exhibition ‘Idea as Model’ at the Institute of Architectural and Urban Studies in New York in 1976, alongside projects by architects. His contribution was to borrow a gun from Dennis Oppenheim, enter the building at 8.00 am and blow out the windows of the exhibition space. These were replaced by photographs of a new housing estate whose windows had been broken by the tenants.

His interventions are only known now as photographs and documentation, although this has not prevented him from being recognized as an important figure in the development of installation art.

Further Reading

C. Diserens, ‘Gordon Matta-Clark’, in A. Benjamin (ed.) Installation Art (1993)

Subjects: Art.


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