Gordon Matta-Clark: Walls Paper, Deconstructed

Gordon Matta-Clark, whose work is featured in the Photographic Literature portion of Thursday’s sale, brought an inspired and playful quality to his highly experimental and diverse art projects. All speak to a commitment to the constructed (and deconstructed) environment, as well as a willingness to not only speak art, but live and eat it. Matta Clark’s mediums extended from chain saws and buildings to the photographic “printingredients” (food analogies fill his work). Because many of his projects were ephemeral, the camera served not only to document, but to reimagine and contextualize his artworks.

Gordon Matta-Clark, Walls Paper, signed limited edition, 50/100 in ink, 1973.

In Walls Paper, the project consisted of photographs of the crumbling interior walls of soon-to-be demolished Bronx tenement buildings. Matta-Clark then printed them in color on thin newsprint. The cropping and manipulation of color and tone transformed a gritty street into an imaged, and slightly magical place. This is not unlike Matta-Clark’s best-known project, Splitting, in which he cut a house in Englewood, NJ in half and then cropped its corners. 

According to The New York Times“A trained architect and the son of the Surrealist artist Roberto Matta, Matta-Clark occupied the uneasy territory between the two professions when architecture was searching for a way out of its late Modernist doldrums. His best-known works of the ’70s, including abandoned warehouses and empty suburban houses that he carved up with a power saw, offered potent commentary on both the decay of the American city and the growing sense that the American dream was evaporating. The fleeting and temporal nature of that work—many projects were demolished weeks after completion—only added to his cult status after an early death in 1978, from cancer, at 35.”