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Fresh Kill
Freshkill, film still. Image courtesy of the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark and David Zwirner, New York
building
Live Cinema: Gordon Matta-Clark
April 15, 2006 - July 9, 2006

Live Cinema is a series of programs in the Video Gallery of the Museum that explores the vast production of single-channel video and filmwork by a diverse group of local, national, and international artists. In the last decade an ever-increasing number of contemporary artists have appropriated these mediums as an artistic outlet, in a dialogue with the early video and Super 8 practices of the sixties and the tradition of experimental filmmaking. Each program of the Live Cinema series focuses on a specific aspect of this work, in order to both map and analyze this important facet of contemporary art production. Certain Live Cinema programs will be accompanied by a brochure where guest writers will discuss the works exhibited, and also by public lectures given by the participating artists.

Live Cinema: Gordon Matta-Clark chronologically surveys a select group of the artist’s film-based projects from the 1970s. Beginning with his early recycling pieces that utilize garbage as a medium and subject, this series also documents a trio of Matta-Clark’s best-known “anarchitectural” works, which collectively capture the transformation of three diverse spaces: a suburban home, an industrial pier building, and two seventeenth-century French town houses. The final work, branching out beyond the boundaries of walls and buildings, effectively alters our perceptions of an entire city. While the majority of Matta-Clark’s projects were only meant to exist temporarily, these films preserve the ephemeral nature of his approach and also serve as individual works of art themselves.

  • Fire Child, 1971 (9:47), 16mm, color, silent.
    Lent by the Leo and Perlin Katz Collection, Bogota, Colombia
    Runs April 15 through April 30, 2006
    Please note: Running dates are subject to change

    Performative in nature, Fire Child records the making of a site-specific sculpture on May 24, 1971, for the exhibition Brooklyn Bridge Event. After carefully constructing a wall made of rubbish from the area around the bridge, Matta-Clark set his fortification on fire, reducing it to ash. Referencing the “throwaway” character of American consumer culture, the use of detritus in this piece also brings attention to the garbage crisis plaguing New York City in the late 1960s through the 1970s. (Mayor John V. Lindsay declared that his administration spent “more time on sanitation” than any other subject.)
  • Freshkill, 1972 (12:56), 16mm, color, sound.

    Fresh Kill
    Freshkill, film still. Image courtesy of the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark and David Zwirner, New York
    Runs May 2 through May 14, 2006
    Please note: Running dates are subject to change

    Screened at the Kassel, Germany, exhibition Documenta 5 as part of a film compilation entitled 98.5, Freshkill tells the story of “Herman Meydag,” the red panel truck once owned by the artist. After we witness Matta-Clark drive his beloved “Meydag” to a garbage dump, the vehicle is subsequently smashed by bulldozers and then added to the heap. Besides evoking the destructive process undergone by the truck, the title of the film also refers to the Fresh Kills Landfill located in Staten Island, which was formerly the principal landfill for New York City. With this site’s overwhelming quantity of waste, it is perhaps not surprising that Matta-Clark would later observe in 1977 that “only our garbage heaps are sacred as they fill up with history.”
  • Splitting, 1974 (10:50), 16 mm, color and black and white, silent.
    Lent by the Leo and Perlin Katz Collection, Bogota, Colombia

    Splitting
    Splitting, film still. Image courtesy of the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark and David Zwirner, New York
    Runs May 16 through May 28, 2006
    Please note: Running dates are subject to change

    In the spring of 1974 Matta-Clark proposed a project to his dealers Holly and Horace Solomon that would involve cutting a house in half. Ironically, the Solomons owned a lackluster two-story suburban home in Englewood, New Jersey, which had been purchased for the value of the lot. The residence had already been scheduled for demolition, so the Solomons gave the artist free use of the structure for several months. Matta-Clark cut two parallel vertical lines through the center of the building with a chainsaw and then removed the material between the cuts. The rear portion of the house, weighing approximately fifteen tons, was then carefully tilted back onto a slightly lowered foundation. The resulting bisection revealed complex strata and allowed light to flood the interior in unexpected ways, giving this unassuming suburban structure a new sense of character before its ultimate demise.
  • Day's End, 1975 (23:10), 16mm, color, silent.
    Lent by the Agustín and Isabel Coppel Collection
    Runs May 30 through June 11, 2006
    Please note: Running dates are subject to change

    After experimenting with the deconstruction of several suburban homes, Matta-Clark moved on to what would become his most complicated “cut” to date. The building, an abandoned industrial hanger at Pier 52 (on the lower West Side waterfront of New York City), was a turn-of-the-century steel-truss structure originally used by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company. On the grand scale of a basilica, measuring approximately six hundred feet long, seventy feet wide, and fifty feet high, the space lent itself to Matta-Clark’s vision of a “sun-and-water temple.” Over a two-month period, the artist worked secretly with several assistants to make a series of cuts in the walls, roof, and even the floorboards, exposing the water underneath.

    Buses of spectators from the Holly Solomon Gallery arrived for the official opening of Day’s End on August 27, 1975, but the authorities from the New York City Economic Development Administration, tipped off that Matta-Clark had been altering the structure, soon closed down the event. The artist was then investigated for a possible lawsuit in the amount of one million dollars, but the authorities eventually dropped the claim after Matta-Clark declared the work to be part of the public domain.

  • Conical Intersect, 1975 (18:40), 16mm, color, silent.
    Philadelphia Museum of Art: Purchased with the Joseph E. Temple Fund, 2005 <

    Conical Intersect
    Conical Intersect, film still. Image courtesy of the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark and David Zwirner, New York
    Runs June 13 through June 25, 2006
    Please note: Running dates are subject to change

    This cutting, Matta-Clark’s project for the Paris Biennale of 1975, utilized two adjacent town houses (27–29 Rue Beaubourg, Paris) that were built in 1699 for a Mr. and Mrs. Leiseville, perhaps as "his and hers" residences. The structures were located in the Les Halles district, at that time controversially being cleared for modernization. The houses, which the artist dubbed the “old couple,” stood in contrast to the technologically advanced but unfinished metal structure that would become the Centre Pompidou.

    Specifically inspired by Anthony McCall’s film Line Describing a Cone (1973), Matta-Clark’s cutting resembled a large twisting cone: the massive circular opening on the north wall spiraled through the walls, doors, and out the attic roof of the adjacent home, getting smaller and smaller as it wove through space. Upon the completion of the project, the authorities bricked up the entrance; Matta-Clark, however, gained access to finish this film, which documents every stage of this incredible undertaking.

  • Substrait (Underground Dailies), 1976 (30:00), 16mm, color and black and white, sound.
    Runs June 27 through July 9, 2006
    Please note: Running dates are subject to change

    Like many of Matta-Clark’s projects, Substrait reveals what is typically concealed beneath the surface. Instead of exposing the underbelly of a building, the artist took his camera underneath New York City to investigate the complex nature of its underground spaces and tunnels. Documentary in nature, the film utilizes a variety of sites, including the 13th Street storm sewer, the Croton Aqueduct at Highgate, and the New York Central railroad tracks. The purposefully unedited footage strikingly uncovers the living foundation that enables a large metropolis to function on a daily basis.

Sponsors

Generous support for this program is being provided by Agustín and Isabel Coppel as well as the Morris B. and Edith S. Cartin Family Foundation. Exhibition copies of the films and photography provided courtesy of the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark and David Zwirner, New York

Curator

Melissa Kerr • Curatorial Assistant, Modern and Contemporary Art

Location

Modern and Contemporary Video Gallery, first floor

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