Back in the Bronx: Gordon Matta-Clark, Rogue Sculptor

The small Bronx Museum of the Arts regularly hits above its weight. It is doing so again with “Gordon Matta-Clark: Anarchitect,” a streamlined exhibition of the work of this insurrectionary artist. The show creates a remarkably full picture of an irrepressible and unfailingly D.I.Y. maverick who is revered as one of the prime movers in the juggernaut of Conceptual, Process and Performance art that emerged in the late 1960s and ’70s. With a range that few of his peers equaled, Matta-Clark contributed to all of these genres.

He and his twin brother, John Sebastian, were born in New York to the Chilean Surrealist painter Roberto Matta and Anne Clark, an American artist and fashion designer. The parents separated shortly after their birth, and the boys were raised primarily in Greenwich Village by their mother. Matta-Clark (1943-1978) studied architecture at Cornell University, and evolved into a kind of urban land artist who used his skills to reshape and transform architecture into an art of structural explication and spatial revelation. He is best known for cutting up derelict buildings scheduled for demolition, turning them into giant temporary installations or extracting fragments from them that he then exhibited as sculpture.

This show, organized by Antonio Sergio Bessa, the museum’s director of curatorial and education programs, and Jessamyn Fiore, an independent curator and co-director of the Gordon Matta-Clark Estate, is beautifully staged in separate capsules of work. It doesn’t attempt to give us a wide-angle view of Matta-Clark’s brief but prolific and extremely diverse career, barely a decade in length, which ended with his death from pancreatic cancer at the age of 35. It concentrates on his photographs and videos, seen in appropriately large projections, and the ways he constantly fused art and the documentation of art.

Nonetheless, the exhibition captures his restless intelligence and, most important, his relationship with the city and…

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