About this artwork
Gordon Matta-Clark is best known for bold, unconventional drawings, films, photographs, and sculptures relating to the built environment. The son of Surrealist painter Roberto Matta, he studied architecture at Cornell University from 1962 to 1968; there, he met sculptor Robert Smithson, whose interests in land art and the theory of entropy influenced him significantly. After completing his studies, he moved to New York and became a well-known figure among artists in the burgeoning avant-garde scene centered in Soho. Matta-Clark’s principal contribution was as a radical sculptor: he is recognized for his series of “building cuts” (1972–78), in which he carved out sections of entire structures, treating them as spatial compositions. Calling these transformations “Anarchitecture,” the artist documented them in films and photographs that were subsequently exhibited in galleries, often alongside fragments of the buildings themselves.
One of his most celebrated sculptures consisted of a vertical slice into an old frame house located in Englewood, New Jersey. The home, owned by New York art dealer Holly Solomon, was slated for demolition. The resulting film is composed of intentionally artless footage showing Matta-Clark and his friends making two parallel cuts down the center of the house; jacking up one half of the structure and beveling the cinderblock supporting it; and then lowering that half back down, bisecting the home and creating an ephemeral display of light inside the once-compartmentalized interior. The movie’s documentary style is the result of the artist’s dramatically physical approach to filmmaking. It reveals Matta-Clark as a daredevil, climbing around a structure that has nothing but a few jacks preventing it from collapse. The sequences, which study the light effects produced by the building cut, reveal a domestic space transformed into a sundial on a grand scale.
After he created Splitting, Matta-Clark invited select members of the art com-munity to travel by bus to the home and see it firsthand, an act that was not without some physical risk to the out-of-place gallery-goers. Three months later, the house was leveled. While the majority of the artist’s projects were only meant to exist temporarily, films such as Splitting preserve the ephemeral nature of his approach and also remain as important works of art in their own right. Indeed, Splitting has been remembered as “one of the premier moments of a period in which anarchistic, architecturally oriented sculpture coexisted with Conceptual art.” During his short career––he died of cancer at age thirty-five—Matta-Clark made over twenty films documenting his architectural explorations and interventions; these have become an extremely important influence for contemporary artists such as Matthew Barney, Pierre Huyghe, and Rachel Whiteread.
Currently Off View
- Contemporary Art
- Gordon Matta-Clark
- United States
- Super 8 black-and-white and color film, silent, transferred to 16mm film; 10:50 min. Edition number seven of ten
- Restricted gift of Dirk S. Denison
- © 2018 Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York