Passing Through Architecture: The 10 Years of Gordon Matta-Clark

From November 7th, 2019 to February 16th, 2020, the Power Station of Art will host the exhibition “Passing Through Architecture: The 10 Years of Gordon Matta-Clark.” Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-1978) represents a unique case in 20th-century art history. He treated buildings as his artistic medium and is best known for his “cuttings” and reflections on “anarchitecture.” Starting in New York’s downtown SoHo district in the early 1970s, he cut into buildings as if drawing freely in space, producing some of the most celebrated artworks that continue to inspire generations of artists and architects today. As the first large-scale exhibition of Matta-Clark's work in China, “Passing Through Architecture: The 10 Years of Gordon Matta-Clark” will trace the remarkable thinking and avant-garde works of this interdisciplinary artist from 1968 to 1978 with more than 400 drawings, photo-works, films and archival documents. 

In 1968, Matta-Clark graduated from Cornell University’s Department of Architecture and returned to his birthplace of New York City, which was undergoing a post-war “urban renewal plan” and an overall economic transformation. Many old buildings faced demolition, slums were razed, ethnic minorities expelled, and a large number of people were left homeless, while the white middle class moved away from the innercity. The urban decay prompted Matta-Clark to devote himself to a series of practices that criticized modernist urban planning and created temporary communities and autonomous spaces, as well as housing and living programs for the poor. 

Matta-Clark's renowned "cuttings" began in 1971. He physically sliced open and dissected buildings, defamiliarizing them into giant inhabitable sculptures with a haunting beauty that he captured in films and photo-works. He began by cutting small rectangular holes into the floors and walls of abandoned buildings in the Bronx, New York. The cuts grew steadily bigger in size and complexity. By late 1973 he cut through a whole building for the first time to produce the A W-HOLE HOUSE. In the following year, Matta-Clark completed his most famous work SPLITTING by cutting an abandoned home in New Jersey in half and leaning one half back a little. A few months later, in his work BINGO/NINTHS, he cut the façade of a house in Niagara Falls, New York, into nine rectanglesso that it resembled a bingo game card, and then gradually removed each one in turn until only one remained. In 1975, he illegally trespassed into an old warehouse at Pier 52 on the Hudson River in New York where he made a series of cuts, including a huge half-moon-shaped hole in the end wall. Sunlight reflecting on the water entered the building through the hole, weaving the poetic narrative of DAY’S END, which would be regarded as one of his most spectacular and controversial works. That same year, Matta-Clark was invited by the Paris Biennale to cut two neighboring 17th century buildings that were facing demolition to make way for the construction of the Pompidou Centre. He connected and cut through the two buildings by means of the CONICAL INTERSECT, a cone-shaped cut up an angle that allowed passers by to glimpse up and through the normally hidden complex structure behind the façade. His final building cut, CIRCUS: THE CARRIBEAN ORANGE, completed in Chicago when the artist was suffering with cancer shortly before his death, was perhaps the most dramatic of all. Matta-Clark described cutting buildings as a kind of theatrical performance that attempted to reveal the fragility and instability of the buildings we inhabit, as well as the complexities and hidden life they embody. He tried to show that buildings are all already filled with holes and secret lives long before he intervened. 

In the same spirit of Gordon Matta-Clark's cuts, this exhibition will follow an existing breach in the Power Station of Art: an invisible diagonal line that passes through the entire building. The exhibition does not prescribe a standardized visiting path, encouraging the audience to explore the artist's creations along this chronological line or view his colorful life from any angle. Notably, this exhibition will display for the first time around 180 drawings and sketches that Matta-Clark never showed during his lifetime, his private explorations. His delicate drawings of trees, cacti, arrows, and energy configurations were an in-depth study of the organic world and the movements of energy that morphed into remarkable sketchs of architectural interventions that the artist imagined but never carried out. This hidden world reveals a remarkable counterpart to the groundbreaking work that has made Matta-Clark one of the most admired artists of the 20th-century. 

The exhibition was curated by the renowned architecture historian Mark Wigley and is a continuation of PSA's themed program “Architecture & City” Exhibitions and Researches. It aims to examine Matta-Clark's relentless exploration of topics like architecture, space,biology and ecology; to question the nature of architecture, the natural environment, and human life beyond the scope of architecture 50 years after the artist’s return to New York, and to rethink the multi-faceted legacy left by modernist urban planning ideas.

7 November 2019 to 16 February 2020
Power Station of Art
200 Huayuangang Road
200011 Shanghai, China
Power Station of Art