Gordon Matta-Clark (June 22, 1943– August 27, 1978) was an American Artist best known for his site-specific artworks he made in the 1970s. He is famous for his “building cuts,” a series of works in abandoned buildings in which he variously removed sections of floors, ceilings, and walls.
In the early 1970s as part of the Anarchitecture group, Matta-Clark was interested in the idea of entropy, metamorphic gaps, and leftover/ambiguous space. Fake Estates was a project engaged with the issue of land ownership and the myth of the American dream – that everyone could become “landed gentry” by owning property. Matta-Clark “buys” into this dream by purchasing 15 leftover and unwanted properties in Manhattan for $25–$75 a plot. Ironically, these “estates” were unusable or inaccessible for development, and so his ability to capitalize on the land, and thus his ownership of them, existed virtually only on paper.
In 1971 Matta-Clark cofounded Food, in SoHo, New York, with Carol Goodden, a restaurant managed and staffed by artists. The restaurant turned dining into an event with an open kitchen and exotic ingredients that celebrated cooking. The activities at Food helped delineate how the art community defined itself in downtown Manhattan. The first of its kind in SoHo, Food became well known among artists and was a central meeting-place for groups such as the Philip Glass Ensemble, Mabou Mines, and the dancers of Grand Union. He ran Food until 1973.
For the Biennale de Paris in 1975, he made the piece titled Conical Intersect by cutting a large cone-shaped hole through two townhouses dating from the 17th century in the market district known as Les Halleswhich were to be knocked down in order to construct the then-controversial Centre Georges Pompidou.
For his final major project, Circus or The Caribbean Orange (1978), Matta-Clark made circle cuts in the walls and floors of a townhouse next-door to the first Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, building (237 East Ontario Street), thus altering the space entirely. Following his 1978 project, the MCA presented two retrospectives of Matta-Clark’s work, in 1985 and in 2008. The 2008 exhibition You Are the Measure included never-before-displayed archival material of his 1978 Chicago project. You Are the Measure traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.