Featuring one hundred artworks by Gordon Matta-Clark, Jeu de Paume anchors its summer offering with a show dedicated to the artist’s equally enigmatic and engaging practice, one that worked through principles of urban encounter, agency and abstraction with a unique sense of humor. The show, titled Anarchitect explores the importance of Matta-Clark’s practice towards a rethinking of architecture after modernism. Embracing a diversity of media that include photography, film and printmaking, the exhibition features a number of works related to contemporary urban culture that further contextualize Gordon Matta-Clark’s compelling critique of architecture.
Matta-Clark is perhaps best known for his massive cut-away pieces, chopping through buildings with a range of power tools, performing an anatomy of sorts on the very body of the urban landscape by literally cutting structures apart and exhibiting the remnants as demonstration. In other works, Matta-Clark would allow street artists to paint the surfaces of his van, or raise massive advertisements on the Berlin wall, each time allowing the city and its inhabitants to take part in a shifting, fluid act of creation and repurposing.
In each, the artist’s work is easily read as a deconstruction of space, of working through and around the landscapes of New York, Berlin and elsewhere during the height of post-war urban decay. The abandoned buildings and warehouses of the city were his canvas, the cultural energy of his chosen subjects and communities a participatory opening to enter into his practice and leave their own mark.
Yet Matta-Clark also seems to pose the question of just what an art divorced from the confines of the gallery might actually look like, a supposition that seems to raise more questions than it answers. In a space where the fabric of the building becomes a space for the interplay of the artist’s hand, prior structures and even public participation, the artist’s work runs up against the limits of legibility as art, and begins to mirror states of decay or deconstruction around it. The artist’s work seems to render the processes of speculative capital as potential performative spheres. He deploys a similar range of tools, treating architectural spaces as sites where the fluid capacities of modern capitalism are able to slip in, and rework the states and shapes of the urban landscape, ultimately endowing them with some sense of renewed or transformed value.
Matta-Clark’s work, presented in this deep of a retrospective lens, ultimately mirrors so much of the modern neoliberal economy, packaging and reselling aesthetic and image as content itself. In Matta-Clark’s work, at the height of 1970’s economic crises and neglect, these works struck at the threads of potential for how a useless space might be reappropriated and used as a canvas, one where creative forces could not be contained or harnessed, and set to work in new ways.
The show closes September 23rd.
— G. Reinhardt
Gordon Matta-Clark at Jeu de Paume [Exhibition Site]