Tuesday, March 27, 2007

About New York City Part 2

Gordan Matta Clark, Splitting, 1974

On Saturday, I took the subway up to the Whitney. I had read a few articles here and there about the Gordon Matta-Clark retrospective and so I was very excited to have the opportunity to see it.

As other have written far better than I could about his life and work, go read this, this, and then this, and then come back. And then google him later if you still want to know more.

I loved this show. Somehow I felt an affinity towards the artist and his involvement with creating an art community in Soho, his quirky projects such as growing his hair out, cutting it off and then sewing the cuttings back into a wig for himself (an unfinished project, but still, an interesting concept), collecting bottles and melting them down into glass bricks to use in building projects, and his experiments with agar. His energy must have been endless and his interests were varied. His work was well documented with drawings, cibachromes and film, which become the art he made as well, especially valuable since so many of the original works no longer exist.

There were several films continuously running and they were all fascinating. I watched the artist and his friends and assistants split a house down the middle with chainsaws, cut down the foundation on one end and I had goosebumps when the house shifted and daylight spilled out from one side of the structure to the other. (Splitting, shown above)

Another film that I really enjoyed was a documentation of a day in the life of the restaurant, called Food, 1972, that Matta-Clark and several other artists and performers founded and operated. It was a pretty low-key and rather mundane film but I loved seeing a real representation of that particular time and place. It began with a trip to the fish market, then showed the all day preparations for the day's menu, including gutting and preparing the fish, cutting and chopping vegetables and the cooking of some very suspicious gruel like substances. Before the dinner rush, the employees stand around and smoke a joint, then later the customers are shown eating. At the end of the day the employees congregate for their meal at one long table in a flush of community spirit and friendship. The film ends in the small and silent kitchen while the baker prepares loaves of bread for the next day.

Food was located at 127 Prince Street, just a few blocks from where we were staying. On my way back home, I stopped in. Although it is now a kid's clothing store I could get a good sense of the space I had just become so familiar with on film. Ok, a little weird but I love spaces with history and I enjoyed going there. The nice thing about NYC is that you can go into a store, stand around looking at the walls like a dork and no one pays any attention. Especially if you are a middle aged woman. Heh.

I have always been intrigued by structures, old houses and dwellings where people live and spend time in. I think this is because I have lived in such a wide variety of homes over the years, including numerous apartments, old and new houses, mobile homes (yep, it's true, I spent my early teenage years living in a trailer park), lofts, row houses and even in a high rise. Perhaps my brief time in so many different environments that either don't exist anymore or are now significantly changed helped me to connect with Matta-Clark's alterations, most of which have been destroyed.

Anyway, I was so invigorated after seeing all of that. I did go through the rest of the Whitney, but it felt cursory, though it was nice to see two beautiful paintings by Willem de Kooning, and I ended up going back to the Matta-Clark floor again and spent another hour or so there.

Finally I left and since I haven't been to the Guggenheim in about 20 years I decided to go there. Alas, when I walked into the lobby, there were about nine million people waiting in line. Since I was still on an Matta-Clark high and didn't want to lose it, I decided to skip it and so I headed back to Soho. I went to Doug's store but he was busy with customers and so I walked around and looked into a few more galleries. Ordinarily I would have been interested in seeing some paintings, but I couldn't get into it. I just kept thinking of the work of Gordon Matta-Clark.

And now it's still on my mind. I don't know if it will really affect my own work, but since I am already heading towards more structure oriented imagery, who knows? I have spent some time reading more about him on the internet and each evening I have been poring over the exhibition book that I bought at the Whitney.

So I am certainly obsessing about a kind of art that I am usually not so interested in. Sounds silly and melodramatic but I feel as if I have been changed a bit.


gr said...

I had an apprenticeship on Wooster St 22 years ago, and had no spending money. The Whitney, however, was free with a college ID. It was a pretty fantastic way to spend an afternoon, with galleries along the way and a great bookstore to browse next to the Whitney. I think that old bookstore is gone, and the Whitney doesn't have that deal anymore, but there are ways of living in an expensive city, doing a lot, and spending a little. Both of my sister in laws live around the corner from there now.

Tracy said...

Gary, Sounds cool. I always wanted to live in nyc, but settled for a more affordable Philadelphia. In college we used to take day trips to the city and I recall getting into the museums for free and having about $3 for food. Just enough for a hot dog and a pretzel from a cart, back then anyway:)

Olga said...

It can be the stuff one is not normally drawn to which can have the most profound influence - maybe because it really is so different from one's own work that there is no comparative distraction. These are experiences to treasure - I know just how you felt about not wanting to dilute the experience afterwards.

Tracy said...

You are so right Olga. Thanks for the comment.