Gordon Matta-Clark: Anarchitect at The Bronx Museum

Text & Photos: Diana McClure

A trip uptown to the Bronx Museum is well worth it this winter. The exhibition Gordon Matta-Clark: Anarchist offers both a fascinating take on 1970s New York City and an inspiring vision of the far reaches of what an artist can do. The curatorial point of view and the presentation of Matta-Clark’s oeuvre in the context of the contemporary Bronx is quite compelling.

His signature series of “cuts,” site-specific interventions into the dilapidated architectural landscape of the Bronx in the 1970s, are presented in a series of photographs that document the results of his actions. The project involved Matta-Clark entering into intensely run-down or  abandoned buildings and cutting out large-scale geometric shapes into floorboards, allowing viewers to see through to lower or higher levels depending on the vantage point. One of the actual cutouts was preserved and is presented in the exhibition as a sculpture.

The images, in black and white, simultaneously reveal the audacity and ingenuity of Matta-Clark, as well as the neglect and invisibility of the Bronx as a borough in the 1970s. The work was clearly, in part, a response to the legacy of Robert Moses’ (a controversial New York City urban planner) late 1960s Cross Bronx Expressway that displaced approximately 5,000 people and contributed significantly to class divisions and neglect still rampant today in the borough.

Another series of photographs capture the early years of a prolific and widespread fever for graffiti tagging in the Bronx. Anyone who has kept an eye on graffiti culture over the decades will most likely find the images mesmerizing. Small scale letters in assorted colors and coded language appear to be a deeply embedded form of hieroglyphics specific to a particular time and place. Matta-Clark’s eye seems to work like an urban anthropologist, one who had actual entree into the community as opposed to being a voyeuristic outsider.

After discovering these two bodies of work, visitors to the exhibition will encounter another astounding urban architectural intervention that Matta-Clark conducted in the center of Paris.

Not far from what would be the site of the future Centre Pompidou, the work titled “Conical Intersect” was Matta-Clark’s contribution to the Paris Biennale of 1975. The work involved the cutting of massive concentric circles into the structure of a seventeenth century building earmarked for demolition. The piece and its making were captured in video, which is shown on a large screen installed in the center of one of the museum’s gallery spaces.

It’s hard to imagine this type of work taking place in the 21st century, although Matta-Clark’s monumental critiques of urban gentrification are still extremely relevant. Part of Matta-Clark’s dream as an artist and activist was to empower communities to take and feel a sense of ownership of their surroundings. To that end, prior to his death in 1978 at the age of 35, he began to develop an unrealized art center in the South Bronx and a Resource Center and Environmental Youth Program for the Loisaida (Lower East Side), for which he received a Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 1977.

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Visible Intersections & the Art World in 2017 | Art Basel magazine

Visible Intersections & the Art World in 2017

by Diana McClure

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Despite the retrograde politics of this past year, artists, culture workers and collectors around the globe have continued to push back against the ease of falling into a dystopic worldview. In a year that included Documenta, the Venice Biennale, and Skulptur Projekte Münster,  less visible highlights, including interventions across both geographic and philosophical borders, stood out and are featured here. 




The Infamous Rose Hartman at Edelman Arts

by Diana McClure

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A limited edition series of photographs by Rose Hartman on view at Edelman Arts in the exhibition titled, The Infamous Rose Hartman, plays with ideas of both pleasure and infamy in a historical context. A certain joie de vivre, or joy for living, is immediately evident in the work, most of which was shot amidst the decadent landscape of New York City’s nightlife and art world culture of the late 1970s and 1980s.

If viewers are at all nostalgic for the legendary Studio 54 nightclub or the de rigueur Marlborough Gallery, they will absolutely feel the embodiment of that effervescence in Hartman’s images. It is clear that she was there, front and center, body and soul. 


Alvin Baltrop: At the Hudson River Piers at Galerie Buchholz | Photograph magazine

Alvin Baltrop: At the Hudson River Piers at Galerie Buchholz

by Diana McClure


The photographs in Alvin Baltrop: At the Hudson River Piers were taken in a pre-AIDS era, roughly 1975-1986, and feature gay men amidst the crumbling ruins of New York City’s Hudson River piers. On view at Galerie Buchholz through August 19, Baltrop’s images invoke a mixture of Robert Mapplethorpe’s homoeroticism, architectural photography, and images of classical sculpture.

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Irving Penn 1950 at Pace MacGill

Irving Penn 1950 at Pace MacGill

Text & Photo by Diana McClure

Photo: Diana McClure

Photo: Diana McClure

Elegance refined and democratically applied could define the work of legendary photographer, Irving Penn. Eight years after his passing at age 92 in New York, 2017 marks the centennial of Penn’s birth. The occasion is being honored with a retrospective at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and smaller gallery exhibitions across New York City, including Pace MacGill’s, Irving Penn 1950.

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Ima Mfon: Nigerian Identitites / Donna Ruff: The Migrant Series at Rick Wester Fine Art | Photograph magazine


by Diana McClure

 Photos: Anders Jones

Two solo exhibitions, Ima Mfon’s series Nigerian Identities and Donna Ruff’s The Migrant Series, are presented in dialogue with each other at Rick Wester Fine Art, through April 22, as a curatorial choice. Together they amplify what appears to be a global reckoning with notions of migration and immigration, both voluntary and forced.  

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Meghann Riepenhoff: Littoral Drift at Yossi Milo Gallery

Meghann Riepenhoff: Littoral Drift at Yossi Milo Gallery

Words by Diana McClure/  Photography by Anders Jones


Meghann Riepenhoff’s latest photographic artwork is made in collaboration with the natural world. Her “living prints” are baptized through a process that uses rainstorms, snow, ocean waves and other earthly elements as central to the development of her one-of-a-kind prints. The body of work, titled Littoral Drift, employs a cameraless, cyanotype photographic process, using paper, light and chemistry to magnificent effect.

Riepenhoff begins by coating sheets of paper with a homemade cyanotype emulsion; a mix of chemicals, producing a cyan blue print that can be altered to create a range of blue tonalities. In addition to submerging the paper in a variety of forms of water, the interaction of sunlight, sand and salt with the chemicals results in staggeringly voluptuous abstractions in a wide-ranging palette of blues and white.

A sublime familiarity can be found in the large-scale works featured in the exhibition. Without even knowing Riepenhoff's process, ocean vistas and NASA style topographical views of planet earth, as well as batik and tie-dye traditions of printing, come to mind. The added knowledge of how her images come to life, only increases the wonder found in the organic, natural and earthy feel of it.

In the final "fixing" stages of her chemical process, Riepenhoff leaves any lingering photosensitive chemistry in tact, setting the stage for future shifts in color and texture over time (sometimes a result of salt residue). This artistic choice echoes the element of chance found in the historical processes of early photography and science used in the work, as well as her own interest as an artist in the theme of impermanence.

Many of the works are comprised of a grid or grouping of images. Single pieces, diptychs and triptychs within one frame, and large-scale works comprised of multiple cyanotypes, create complete works of art that are structurally compelling. In, Littoral Drift #464 (Bainbridge Island, WA 12.07.16, Seven Simulated Waves, Freezing and Melting), 2016, 48 cyanotypes at 19"x24" each, are presented as a grid at the size of 113 1/4" x 190 3/8". The only unframed work in the exhibition, it is also the largest piece; a stunning abstraction of what could be crashing waves, ocean spray and seam foam. A textured sprinkling of white dots covers one area of the piece; perhaps salt crystals in the mist of metamorphosis.

All of the works on view are named for their location, date, and the atmospheric conditions under which they were made, a nod to nature as Riepenhoff's collaborator.