Gordon Matta-Clark was born in New York on June 22, 1943, to artists Roberto Matta and Anna Clark. Teeny Duchamp, Marcel’s wife, was Matta-Clark’s godmother. Matta-Clark’s childhood was spent in New York, Paris, and Chile. He studied architecture at Cornell University in 1963-68.
In 1969, Matta-Clark moved back to New York. Over the following two years, he explored the metamorphic possibilities of cooking, beginning by frying Polaroid photographs in oil with gold leaf. In the early 1970s, he helped organize 112 Greene Street, an exhibition space showing new art. He also collaborated on Food, a combined restaurant and performance piece; made Garbage Wall, a prototype shelter for the homeless; and was active in building SoHo as an artists’ community. He addressed popular culture in the 1973 Photoglyphs, hand-colored black-and-white photographs depicting New York’s burgeoning graffiti.
During the 1970s, Matta-Clark made the works for which he is best known: his “anarchitecture.” These were temporary works created by sawing and carving sections out of buildings, most of which were scheduled to be destroyed. He documented these projects in photography and film. Although he made interventions into a former iron foundry in Genoa, Italy, in 1973, his first large-scale project has been defined as Splitting (1974). To create this work, Matta-Clark sawed two parallel slices through a nondescript wood-frame house in Englewood, New Jersey, and removed the material between the two cuts. In addition, he cut out the corners of the house’s roof, which were subsequently shown at John Gibson Gallery in New York. He made similar gestures in some of his photographs, cutting the actual negatives rather than manipulating individual prints.
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