Each week we pay homage to a select “Original Creator,” an iconic artist from days gone by whose work influences and informs today’s creators. These are artists who were innovative and revolutionary in their fields—bold visionaries and radicals, groundbreaking frontiersmen and women who inspired and informed culture as we know it today. This week, on the 34th anniversary of his death: Gordon Matta-Clark.
Because we rarely stop to consider them, everyday spaces are only meaningful to us in their functionality. We rarely consider a building or an outdoor structure for traits other than the facility it houses, and there are plenty of places we would rather keep out of sight and out of mind for their lack of functionality or beauty. But there was once an artist who compelled us to reflect on spaces beyond what meets the eye.
He may have been trained as an architect, but in practice, Gordon Matta-Clark was far less involved with creating spaces as he was with augmenting them and pushing us to consider their meaning and significance. Matta-Clark chose subjects representative of urban decay, forgotten corners of the city that people prefer to keep out of site and out of mind, and he used simple but drastic modifications to transform our perception of them.
Matta-Clark died of cancer at the young age of 35, but in his short time, managed to create some immense works of what he called “anarchitecture.” Here are some of his greatest momuments (or “nonuments”). These pieces were all featured at the Gordon Matta-Clark retrospective at The Whitney Museum of American Art in 2007.
For this project, Matta-Clark found a house in Englewood, NJ set for demolition and bisected it right down the middle. This caused a wedge to open up between the two halves, which reached a maximum of about two feet at the peak of the roof. He then sawed off the four top corners of the house, which are now the only remnants of the project. The rest of the house was demolished soon after Splitting.
Conical Intercept (1975)
As part of the Paris Biennale of 1975, Matta-Clark created Conical Intersect. In this project, he used a pair of abandoned 17th-century buildings that were slated for demolition, creating what appears to be a massive drill hole that charges right through the structures. Essentially anyone walking past could look through the building and up unto it to see the various layers of its structure.
Window Blow-out (1976)
A 1976 show at the Institute of Architecture and Urban Studies in New York featured the work of lots of aspiring young architects, whose designs offered idealized visions of space and the cityscape. This was, of course, the general goal of architecture as a discipline, but Matta-Clark, with his sense for realism, contributed images of vandalized project buildings in the Bronx with their windows blown out. Sitting next to designs by Peter Eisenman and Michael Graves, Window Blow-out represented a truth that was largely avoided in conceptual architecture. This juxtaposition was pushed further when Matta-Clark broke into the gallery and shot out several of the windows with an air rifle.