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Gordon Matta-Clark: "You Are the Measure" Opens at MCA Chicago
Gordon Matta-Clark, Office Baroque, 1977. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. © Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark. Courtesy The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

CHICAGO.-The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago, presents Gordon Matta-Clark: “You Are the Measure,” a full-scale retrospective of one of the key figures to emerge in the generation of artists that followed Minimalism from February 2 to May 4, 2008. The son of Surrealist painter Roberto Matta Echaurren, Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-78) produced an oeuvre of remarkable breadth, incorporating spatial, social, and psychological experiences. The exhibition celebrates Matta-Clark’s brilliance and the radical nature of his work in a number of different media: drawings, films, photographs, notebooks, and sculptures assembled from his acclaimed building cuts. A wealth of documentary material related to his interactions with architecture and space, community events, and collective activity is also included.

Curated by the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Elisabeth Sussman, the MCA’s presentation is organized by Curator Lynne Warren. “We are thrilled to see the return of Matta-Clark’s work to the MCA and the city of Chicago,” says Lynne Warren. “Matta-Clark’s compelling, provocative work has continued to exert a profound influence on generations of art enthusiasts.”

The exhibition opens on February 2, 2008, exactly thirty years to the day when Matta-Clark completed his first Chicago work for the MCA, titled Circus or The Caribbean Orange. For this piece, the artist carved large circular holes in the walls, ceilings, and floors of the four-story brick building that became the annex for the former MCA building, used to house the museum’s collection. This was Matta-Clark’s last project before his death in August, 1978, from pancreatic cancer.

Matta-Clark is best known for his “building cuts,” -- such as the MCA’s Circus -- wherein he excised variously shaped voids from the walls or floors of abandoned or soon-to-be demolished buildings to create spatial conditions that would radically alter the perception of the building and its surrounding environment, resulting in the shift of everyday experience into extraordinary visual and kinetic confrontations.

“With his building cuts Matta-Clark challenged his audiences to question the relationship between the constructive and destructive. For his work at the MCA in 1978, Matta-Clark exposed the foundation and substance of what had been an entirely conventional space creating an entirely new and extraordinary visual experience,” says MCA Curator Lynne Warren.

Gordon Matta-Clark studied architecture at Cornell University but never practiced conventionally as a professional. Instead, he married the idea of art and architecture to develop his artistic process. In the early 1970s, Matta-Clark was interested in the idea of entropy, metamorphic gaps, and leftover/ambiguous space, what he called “Anarchitecture.” He had come to see buildings, rooms, urban spaces, neighborhoods, and places where people gather as situations in which his planned “interventions” could create something new.

As exhibition curator Elisabeth Sussman describes in the accompanying exhibition catalogue, “You Are the Measure, plays on the ancient Greek formula ‘Man is the measure,’ substituting a 1970s subjectivity for a time-honored universal…Matta-Clark’s ad hoc anarchitectural ideas were funny, poetic, and the artist hoped, radically different from then-current social and architectural realities. He believed that, in any architectural program, plan for life, plan for community, or plan for art, what must come first and foremost is the ‘you’ – the individual.”

Exhibition Catalogue - The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated, 256-page catalogue, incorporating new information from the Matta-Clark archive, and containing essays by Elisabeth Sussman, Briony Fer, Tina Kukielski, Gwendolyn Owens, Spyros Papapetros, Christian Scheidemann, and Joan Simon as well as a comprehensive chronology.

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