Mystery, stemming from associations with the notion of void, always played a crucial role in opulent practice of Gordon Matta-Clark. Differing from the often massively-sized voids he created in or between buildings before their demolition throughout his career, however, the pen and ink works currently on view at David Zwirner’s 20th street location appears as an almost direct response, although on a much more manageable scale. Blank paper surfaces submit to restless marks of ink in splashes of color or stark black hues, signaling complex narratives behind the artist’s demanding projects, while deep carvings on gesso expose concealed layers that otherwise would go unnoticed when compared to his immense carvings through the architectural skeletons of buildings.
Commonly recognized for his large scale architectural interventions, Matta-Clark, who passed away at an early age, and at the height of his career, is the subject of this expansive, yet focused exhibition through October 24th. Making the selection particularly distinctive is its focus on the artist’s works on paper, a medium that contrasts with the New York native’s experiments with cement or other industrial materials.
Graduating as an architect from Cornell University, Matta-Clark was one of the foremost Conceptualists in the city’s famous experimental art circles of the 1970’s, yet never fully performed this practice, instead pursuing an artistic path that merged architecture with the then emerging Conceptual movement. The result was a particular technique that he called anarchitecture – a portmanteau term combining anarchy and architecture – which problematized the ever growing urbanization and environmental waste of big cities, among which New York City was a foremost example during the city’s decay and near failure in the mid-70’s.
Energy & Abstraction reflects traces of the artist’s fascination towards architectural structures, and a search for alternatives to rapid urbanization through an ambitious checklist and a peculiar, occasionally timid tone. Foundations of his infamous performance Tree Dance, which he performed at Vassar College in 1971, for example, is evident in his drawings of trees in simplistic yet ardent depictions. With their strong bodies almost breaching the edges of their paper, the illustrations of trees correspond to Matta-Clark’s engagement with nature as a refuge. Considered to be studies for his proceeding performances or interventions, drawings of landscapes with rapid hand gestures inarguably infuse his particularly theoretical work with a tacit sense of body and soul, breaking down his remarkably intricate practices into an explicit narrative.
Gordon Matta-Clark: Energy & Abstraction is on view at David Zwirner through October 24, 2015.
Gordon Matta-Clark, Energy & Abstraction (Installation View)
*All images are by Osman Can Yerebakan for Art Observed.
— O.C. Yerebakan
David Zwirner [Exhibition Page]