29 October 2009

Gordon Matta-Clark arrives in Saint Louis

During the 1960s, Gordon Matta (son of Surrealist painter Roberto Matta (1911-2002) and artist Anne Clark) attended Cornell University's School of Architecture. At the time, the school was under the influence of architectural theorist and historian Colin Rowe who had his own unique view of modernism. The school was strongly in the formalist modern camp. Graduates from the 1950s included figures like Richard Meier and Peter Eisenman. The line of inquiry developed by the so-called 'Neo-Modernists' was a significant element within the school's pedagogy.

Gordon Matta-Clark. Photograph of Matta-Clark
where his hair has been sectioned off through the use
of a grid, each section being tied and marked to it's
corresponding grid. Photograph documenting Hair (1972).

Gordon Clark doesn't appear to have been particularly impressed with the formalist, abstract, conceptual paradigm in the which the school operated. He ultimately completed his degree in 1968 with Dean's List commendation. However, his future as an artist seems to have been influenced heavily by his studies in art history and sculpture. Toward the end of his tenure in Ithaca, the Johnson Art Museum at Cornell held an exhibition of "Earth Art" including installations by Robert Smithson, Dennis Oppenheim and other significant figures in the burgeoning movement. Such work has also been referred to as Land Art.

Gordon Matta-Clark. Photograph from
documenting Hair (1972).

Clark assisted in creating Dennis Oppenheim's project which involved making a long, linear "cut" in the ice on Beebe Lake adjacent to campus. The physical act of cutting an abstract geometrical figure into a fundamentally irregular natural formation is a principal method employed in Earth Art. It seems Clark's later use of cuts into the fabric of building undergoing a process of decay stemmed from his experience performing such a cut under extreme physical and psychological stresses (for example, the freezing weather and the danger of breaking through the relatively thin ice) was strongly influenced by his experiences in assisting in the creation and performance of Oppenheim's work. A similar Oppenheim project cut into ice naturally formed ice was his Boundary Split of 1968.

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