Critics’ Picks

Gordon Matta-Clark, Garbage Wall, 2018, mixed media, 14 x 6'.


Gordon Matta-Clark

David Zwirner | London
24 Grafton Street
November 21–December 20

Gordon Matta-Clark was constantly bereaved. Soon after his birth in 1943, his father, the painter Roberto Matta, abandoned the family; Matta-Clark’s cousin died in a building collapse in 1973; his twin brother, Sebastian, killed himself in 1976. Gordon succumbed to cancer two years later at thirty-five. Haunted by endings, he splayed his interest in revitalizing urban space through as many new artistic forms as he could.

“Works 1970-1978” contains drawings, photographs, collages, and films, but the centerpiece is Garbage Wall, a large, compacted block of debris and discarded objects, bound together in acrylic polymer and cement. Matta-Clark made three versions of Garbage Wall but left its future executions to circumstance; both the dimensions and contents vary. This one is fourteen feet long and six feet high and was assembled in November by a team at the gallery. Its facade is studded with musical keyboards, toy trains, battered VCRs. It’s a time capsule of forgotten objects, the detritus of several lives fashioned into a collective memory.

How we share space, how we read the traces we leave behind—these questions also characterize Matta-Clark’s signature “cuts,” cavities he made with a chainsaw in derelict structures. On the first floor, several collaged Cibachrome prints depict site-specific works including Office Baroque, 1977, which involves “anarchitectural” excisions from an Antwerp building’s floor and wall. Downstairs, a film of the same title and year documents the artist’s team onsite as they lever—with surprising delicacy—the excised portions onto the street. As the building is opened up, its angles and planes proliferate; shadows arc across exposed wood, split by the gashes. One print takes two vertically opposed viewpoints, inverts them, and sets them parallel, playfully scattering the single perspective. Alive with architectural and human integrity, this exhibition attests to the generosity of Matta-Clark’s practice; he treated the loss of space as a possibility, even a gift.