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This artist was famous for cutting massive holes in New York's derelict buildings

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

Bronx floor cutout by Gordon Matta-Clark

Now that three of uptown's five biggest museums have closed their galleries for renovations, it's a good time to go further afield looking for great art. Perfect in size–neither too big nor too small–and always free is the Bronx Museum.

Currently there's a fascinating show about Gordon Matta-Clark, whose work cutting monumental holes through neglected urban architecture had its start in the Bronx. In the early '70s, Matta-Clark, who called himself an "anarchitect" (anarchist + architect), drew attention to the decaying corners of the borough by carving massive holes through the neighborhood's crumbling buildings.

The exhibit, "Gordon Matta-Clark: Anarchitect," includes an actual cutout of a Bronx floor (anyone who has ever lived in an unrenovated pre-war tenement will automatically recognize the countless layers exposed in the work), plus the haunting photographs Matta-Clark took of the results.

Gordon Matta-Clark at the Bronx Museum
Gordon Matta-Clark at the Bronx Museum

Another part of the show focuses on the artist's later, more well-known cutouts, including a conical hole he made in the side of a 17th-century building in Paris and a moon-like slice he took out of a (now-demolished) warehouse near the Meatpacking District. Old movies document the work, while color photos memorialize the temporary art.

Gordon Matta-Clark at the Bronx Museum

Matta-Clark was drawn to other aspects of New York's raw urban spaces, from underground tunnels, graffiti, and the inner walls of buildings exposed during demolition, and all of these fixations are also brought to life at this show via photographs and carefully chosen pieces of urban detritus.

The artist, who died in 1978 at the age of 35, left us with these many reminders that there is beauty (as well as sociological importance) to be found in a city's forgotten corners. It's a fitting message, especially in today's obsession with all that's shiny and new.

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