14 November 2009

Matta de Matta

Following his graduation from Cornell University (Ithaca, New York) with a Bachelor of Architecture degree, Gordon Matta-Clark began to tentatively explore human interaction with space and structure. His work in this period seems to derive from a desire to comment upon architecture, the human environment and its material basis. Some comments from his unprinted manifesto for an exhibition catalog of his largely performance-based works at Vassar College in upstate New York (such as Tree Dance, 1971) outline his initial motivating thoughts and ideas.

The first full paragraph of this statement of purpose deriving from his performance based works of the period between his graduation from Cornell University's College of Art and Architecture and his return to New York City in the early 70s reads:
Completion through removal. Abstraction of surfaces. Not-building, not-to-rebuild, not-built space. Creating spatial complexity, reading new openings against old surfaces. Light admitted into space or beyond beyond surfaces that are cut. Breaking and entering. Approaching structural collapse, separating the parts at the point of collapse. [emphasis added]
Matta-Clark's architectural sensibility is also evident in the visual language contained in the schematic diagrams directing the elements, actors, forms and movement for his presentation of Tree Dance. Portions of the diagram appear to use section and elevation details depicted in series, indicating change over time.


The sense of gravity and danger is a key aspect of such a performance. Extrapolating that sense of tension and anxiety to an architectural situation is in part how Matta-Clark was able to bridge from his origins relating to Land Art (via Smithson, Oppenheim, etc.) by initially instigating performance and action in the context of a natural structure, in this case a mature deciduous tree.
Although there may not be a direct causal relation between Matta-Clark's production with that of his father, Surrealist painter Roberto Matta, it can be instructive to view their art in relation to each other. For example Invasion of the Night (1941) embodies certain forms and associations with the natural landscape, floating bodies, and organically suggestive abstract objects.

These descriptive aspects of Matta's painting could also be attributed to this early work of his son Gordon Matta-Clark where he hangs suspended in space, wrapped in netting like a cocoon. The attribution of human qualities to this amorphous form contains the same sense of hesitancy and anxiety involved in interpreting many of Matta's forms in relation to the human figure.

Unfortunately, the father Matta did not see the value of his son's artist production, once taking an occasion to spit upon one in public.

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