New York

Gordon Matta-Clark

Holly Solomon Gallery

In 1974 Gordon Matta-Clark took a saw to a house in Englewood, New Jersey. By the time he was done, the house, which belonged to dealer friends Holly and Horace Solomon, had been neatly split down the center, with one half bevelled to incline slightly from the vertical, and the four corner eaves extracted.

Splitting: Four Corners, 1974, as represented here by the artist’s photographs and photo-collages as well as by the corners themselves (which look surprisingly unimposing—their walls are thinner than one would expect, and their internal hodgepodge of two-by-fours and wiring rather crude), was executed as part of Matta-Clark’s “Anarchitectural” program. Anarchitecture assaulted moribund artistic conventions and even pointed to social inequities by cutting into abandoned and ruined buildings. He transformed unused warehouses along the New York waterfront into sublime cathedrals of light with incisions that let in the setting sun or cut rectangular sections of flooring out of Bronx tenements and displayed the linoleum-covered fragments in galleries. The artist’s social conscience, stirred by urban decay and neglect, expanded throughout his brief career (Matta-Clark died of cancer in 1978), and he eventually instigated a joint artistic-community project on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and opened a restaurant in Soho to help support young artists.

Splitting: Four Corners strikes with the poignancy of a (literally) broken home, transcending this simplistic metaphor through the eerie emptiness of its spaces. The house was abandoned by its former tenants, with old appliances and furniture heaped up in the basement, and upstairs rooms strewn with torn-up carpets and assorted debris. The structure’s very ordinariness (its elongated frame strung the length of a standard suburban lot and fanning out at the end with rickety twin front and back porches), its bland typicality (particularly as represented in Matta-Clark’s deadpan black and white photographs), recalls the spooky police photographs of all-too-normal crime and accident sites. Matta-Clark’s bold, simple gesture makes David Ireland’s archaeological machinations at his house on Capp Street in San Francisco look contrived and theatrical.

Matta-Clark’s final sculptural gesture—the removal of the corner eaves—should have admitted redeeming light into the forlorn, bifurcated structure; but instead, the openings provided views of an empty lot, patchy greenery, and a distant house—an oddly unstructured and unpopulated landscape that offers little solace.

Lois E. Nesbitt