How Gordon Matta-Clark Saw the City

Matta-250x220Jillian Steinhauer at The New Republic:

In 1972, artist Gordon Matta-Clark began entering abandoned apartment buildings in the South Bronx and cutting holes in the floors. His cuts were strategic: neat rectangles whose clean lines contrasted with the decay around them, even as their geometry echoed nearby windows and door frames. They were also thorough: He sliced through all the layers of a given floor and removed the cutout section. In his black-and-white photographs of the series, Bronx Floors, a sunlit window can often be glimpsed through the freshly carved holes. The cuts appear as portals. They connect spaces above and below, inside and outside.

Matta-Clark knew how buildings were made. In the late sixties, he’d returned home to New York City from Cornell University, where he’d gotten an undergraduate degree in architecture. But he wasn’t interested in erecting more modernist monoliths. The buildings New York already had were crumbling, along with its infrastructure, and the city had neither the money nor the will to fix them. Matta-Clark knew firsthand the enormous cost of this neglect; his cousin died in 1973 when the Broadway building he lived in collapsed. In words that remain chillingly prescient, Matta-Clark identified the South Bronx as a neighborhood “where the city is just waiting for the social and physical condition to deteriorate to such a point that the borough can redevelop the whole area into the industrial park they really want.”

more here.