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Gordon Matta-Clark-1


Periodically I am approached by curators and writers asking to interview me about Gordon Matta-Clark.  He was my dearest friend and a mentor when I was a young artist. He also died from cancer after battling the disease for over a year. His death was not easy.  Whenever people ask me to be interviewed about Gordon it creates a tremendous sadness in me.  The times we had together were among the best times of my life.  Reliving them stirs up deep emotions in me and, I am sure, in all of his circle of friends and colleagues. Recently I’ve been approached to be interviewed by two curators one from San Diego and one from New York for upcoming exhibitions of Gordon’s work. In New York there will be a retrospective at the Whitney in 2007.

It’s difficult for young artists nowadays to understand the context of the 1970’s. There was much ephemeral work done by many artists with little or no documentation.  The gallery scene was about 1/10th the size it is now.  The galleries that showed advanced art could be counted on the fingers of one hand.  Gordon along with Jeffrey Lew opened up the first alternative gallery in the U.S. at 112 Greene Street on the ground floor. Jeffrey’s description of 112 was quite succinct, “Most galleries won’t let you put a scratch on the floor, here you can cut a hole in it.”  Every young artist at that time understood that all the galleries had their stable of artists and there was little chance for an exhibition by a young up and coming. One had to be inventive and create the exhibition place as well as the work. The very idea of having a career as an artist was laughable.

The 1970’s was a decade long recession. Indeed, the generation coming of age at that time felt abandoned by the mainstream. This climate caused many artist’s to band together in collaboratives pooling their talents and resources.  Soho which is now a fashionable shopping district was at that time an underused warehouse district. Indeed, there was only one tavern and the restaurants catered to the lunchtime sweatshop crowd.  It was the metaphorical abandoned district for an abandoned generation.

A recent piece by Michael Kimmelman titled, Inspiration from Real Estate Rejects, in the Friday, September 9th,  New York Times, Weekend Arts section is perhaps the first bit of writing that I’ve read that captures the spirit of Gordon Matta-Clark and the times in which he lived. “But his art wasn't only about turning squalid architecture into sculpture. Property could have its own metabolism, he thought. It evolved. It could be traded, like stocks, making its value, its status, abstract. His broader interest was in inaccessible, forlorn spots: in the spaces inside walls, in ambiguous, in-between places around the city that are left over by bureaucratic neglect or fiat, and that go unnoticed or that can't actually be seen. He was interested in the topology of absence: places physically unloosed, elegiac sites, intensely felt. They awaited his intervention, through which people might picture the city afresh, might reconsider notions of property and ownership and social exchange - the forces that govern our lives.”  From    pdf

Gordon had a utopian vision that manifested itself in his various projects. Many if not all of his projects were collaborative or communal or communitarian.  This is not to say that his vision was not unique. He was the instigator or ringleader. I can still hear him say,” Wouldn’t it be fantastic if…” and then go off on a riff about whatever the topic of discussion was about.  The “if” part was always a unique synthesis of disparate themes that one would not think of joining together.