Homewrecker

Although he used such brutish tools as chainsaws, screw jacks, and acetylene torches, Matta-Clark (1943–78) had a surpassingly sensitive feel for the decrepit buildings, empty beer bottles (he once used a kiln to recycle discarded bottles into translucent bricks), and other forlorn materials that make up his sculptures. A four-bedroom house he'd sawn down the middle and gently split apart was described by the artist as "the perfect dance partner." In 1974, he cut eight 9 x 5 foot slabs out of an abandoned Niagara Falls beauty parlor and the three remaining fragments are painterly wonders: The exterior sides feature faded red shingles punctuated by the white geometries of door and window frames; the interior faces present a sawed-off staircase zigzagging down one scarred green wall while truncated floor joists beat a dark, staccato rhythm across the cracked white plaster of another. Photographic collages of the massive arcs, teardrops, and cones Matta-Clark cut through walls, floors, and ceilings document the lyrical spaces he constructed through selective demolition. Edged with colorful crazy quilts of sheared-off linoleum, wallpaper, and lumber, these voids achieved anarchic beauty amid urban blight.


Johannes VanDerBeek
At first glance, Ruins (2007) looks like a weathered medieval wall with blunted crenellations and broken arches. But the squarish gray stones are actually Time, Life, and National Geographicmagazines that have been glued together and then sanded with an industrial grinder. Flecks of bright color and portions of text and photographs are sometimes visible on the ravaged surfaces; when a section of bar code or the shifting garishness of a printed hologram snaps into focus, you may get a prescient glimpse of the garbled remains of our empire. Zach Feuer, 530 W 24th, 212-989-7700. Through April 7.

Gordon Matta-Clark's Circus
© Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark/Courtesy the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Gordon Matta-Clark's Circus

Details

Gordon Matta-Clark
Whitney Museum
945 Madison Avenue
Through June 3

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