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Disappearing Act


…Plus Three That Are Gone.

Splitting (1974)
Matta-Clark may be best known for his “building cuts,” in which he sliced structures like loaves of bread. This house in Englewood, New Jersey, was split in two, over four months of jacking and tilting. Manfred Hecht, who helped out, said, “It was always exciting working with Gordon—there was always a good chance of getting killed.” The house’s corners are now in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, but the rest is gone— it had been chosen because it was slated for demolition anyhow.

Day’s End (1975)
Matta-Clark cut five openings into the decrepit shed of Pier 52, calling it a “basilica” with a “rose window” (a bean-shaped hole facing the sunset) and illuminating a spot known for seedy nocturnal misbehavior. It was all done illegally—he later said, “I had no faith in any kind of permission … there has never, in New York City’s history, with maybe one or two minor exceptions, ever been any permission granted to an artist on a large scale”—and once the city got wind of the project, Matta-Clark ended up leaving the country to avoid arrest. (The pier today is a flat slab, with no superstructure.)

Jacks (1971)
In a performance organized by Alanna Heiss (who now runs P.S. 1), Matta-Clark and other artists took over the arches under the Brooklyn Bridge, sharing turf with homeless men, gang members, and heaps of junk. For Jacks, Matta-Clark hoisted the wrecked cars that had been dumped there, creating makeshift shelters that looked to have been dropped by a vacationing Kansas tornado. At the finale, he roasted a pig on a spit and handed out free pork sandwiches.


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