Gordon Matta-Clark didn’t just chainsaw holes into buildings, radically transforming the experience of their spaces. He also split a house in half and celebrated Earth Day by making a wall of garbage. This well-deserved retrospective celebrates the ideas and brazen social agenda behind Matta-Clark’s extreme exploits.
Since most of the late American artist’s work has been demolished, the show leans heavily on documentary evidence and wall text that—for the patient reader—creates a portrait of an idealistic rebel hero: When Matta-Clark participated in a 1976 exhibition about avant-garde architecture, for example, he decried the failure of Modernist public housing… by shooting out the windows of the gallery.
Matta-Clark’s Pier In/Out (1973) embodies many elements of his practice. After illegally cutting a rectangular hole in a Pier 14 warehouse, he documented the site in a Cibachrome print, which is shown next to the cutting itself. In the print, Matta-Clark’s violent incision jarringly frames his sublime perspective of the warehouse interior, cutting cleanly through a window and aluminum wall. The MCA also displays dramatic photographs of its own visit from Matta-Clark 30 years ago, when he gouged large holes throughout the museum’s former annex to produce Circus or The Caribbean Orange.
Other materials chronicle the artist’s role as a SoHo community leader and his prescient interest in environmentalism. Though his career spanned just nine years before his death from cancer in 1978, Matta-Clark left an indelible impression on both art and architecture.