Disclaimer: AN is the media partner for Gordon Matta-Clark: Anarchitect The Bronx Museum of the Arts’ Gordon Matta-Clark: Anarchitect is sprawling, playfully curated, free to enter, and well suited for display in the borough that inspired so much of the artist’s work. Showcasing over one hundred of Matta-Clark’s pieces, the exhibition features films, prints, sculptures, and a series of interactive dialogues. Matta-Clark’s art, centered on a ravaged New York City in the 1970s, gains power when viewed in the proper historical context. As abandoned properties were torn down across the Bronx and crime rates soared, residents felt disempowered; Jonathan Mahler famously wrote that the city was in the middle of "fiscal and spiritual crisis." Trained as an architect, Matta-Clark lashed out at gentrification, economic stratification, and the physical divisions caused by capitalism in the ways that he knew best. A founding member of Anarchitecture, a group that criticized the excesses of architecture, Matta-Clark’s work frequently critiqued the historical destruction caused by modernist architecture as an outgrowth of capitalism. The show’s organizers are no strangers to the material. Antonio Sergio Bessa, writer, poet, curator, and the Bronx Museum’s director of curatorial and educational programs, partnered with Jessamyn Fiore, the co-director of the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark and frequent exhibitor of his work, for Anarchitect. Anarchitect may be a linear show, but that only enhances the experience. Each room progressively builds upon the last, and the importance of Matta-Clark’s reverence for cuts, holes, and site-specific installations and his focus on exposing the hidden reveals itself over time. Following a gradual introduction to the artist’s fascination with negative space, spontaneity, and the emergence of chaos from ordered systems, the show’s layout pushes viewers along an entwined timeline of Matta-Clark’s work and the evolution of his political views. Perhaps the best primer on Matta-Clark’s worldview is the film that visitors must pass through before reaching the main gallery. Substrait, a 1976 consolidation of shorter works, follows the artist and collaborators as they spelunk below the Croton Aqueduct, Grand Central Terminal, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and other New York landmarks. Despite the crushing darkness and massive, alien scale of the infrastructure surrounding them, the film emphasizes the essential nature of these spaces. New York, so frequently thought of as a “vertical” city, relies on the horizontal voids below; one guest describes them as the hot arteries of the city, delivering life. Without the foundations, steam systems, and tunnels that deliver clean water, upward expansion would be impossible, much in the same way that the rich rely on the working class “beneath” them. Inside the main gallery space, Bronx Floors sees Matta-Clark’s usage of geometric holes cut in the floors or walls of condemned Bronx buildings to examine the building from angles unintended by their designers. In altering the “ideal” form of the building, Matta-Clark attempted to show Bronx residents that they could reclaim some form of control over the built environment, even as the city was indifferently tearing it down around them. The contrast of horizontal and vertical is repeated here, as holes intersect with “established” doorways and windows, giving viewers the impression of seeing from a mystical, impossible viewpoint. Wrapping the edges of the exhibit are rarely seen black-and-white prints of the artist’s graffiti photography, many of which he colored by hand after developing. The placement is a neat trick, and creates an interior-exterior contrast that enhances the message; the graffiti, like the voids they surround, were used to reclaim slivers of a city that seemed actively hostile to its poorest residents. The most monumental of Matta-Clark’s work is saved for last, as the final room contains photos, diagrams and large-scale projections of both Conical Intersect and Day’s End, presented back to back with emphasis on the connection between both projects. Conical Intersect, one of Matta-Clark’s most famous works, saw Anarchitecture carving a conical hole through a pair of abandoned 17th-century buildings in Paris, with the rising Centre Georges Pompidou as a backdrop. Through stitched-together panoramic photos, viewers are able to understand both the massive scale of the carvings, as well as the specifically constructed views they afforded. This protest against historical destruction in light of France’s drive for “urban renewal” drew obvious parallels with development in New York. Realized the same year as Conical Intersect (and part of the reason Matta-Clark fled to France in the first place) and placed next to it, Day’s End saw the artist cutting massive holes in an abandoned warehouse on the Hudson pier. Envisioned as a “sun-and-water temple,” Matta-Clark’s attempt at reclaiming an unused plot of land as a public park was adaptive reuse before the term went mainstream, guerrilla urbanism done literally under threat of arrest, meant to expose the hypocrisy of keeping the waterfront inaccessible to the public. Now, over 40 years later, the Whitney Museum is resurrecting an ethereal version of the project to float over the Hudson River. At the end of Anarchitect, one faces a troubling truth. Although the Bronx’s fortunes have improved since the 1970s, artists and politicians are still debating how to address the same issues of inequality and urban policy failures that Matta-Clark sought to highlight. As New York enacts urban renewal programs in an effort to curb an affordable housing crisis, and homelessness rises to historic levels, Anarchitect’s look back at the city’s troubled past is startlingly relevant. Gordon Matta-Clark: Anarchitect The Bronx Museum of the Arts 1040 Grand Concourse Through April 8, 2018
Posts tagged with "Bronx Museum of the Arts":
The Bronx Museum of the Arts has just announced that Monica Ponce de Leon, co-curator of the 2016 Venice Biennale, will design the first phase of an expansion to its facility on the Grand Concourse. The contemporary art museum, founded in 1971, has seen attendance quadruple in recent years, and has added 1,300 new members through the city's free IDNYC program since 2015: Ponce de Leon's upgrade will add space for programming and exhibitions, improve connection with the streetscape, and allow the museum to broaden its community engagement. The Bronx Museum participated in the first American museum collaboration with Cuba in over 50 years and offers programming to at-risk, area youth. Ponce de Leon, who designs through Monica Ponce de Leon Studio and serves as the dean of Princeton University School of Architecture, was selected in 2013 though the NYC Department of Design and Construction's (DDC) Design and Construction Excellence program (DC+E) to redesign the South Wing Atrium as a "Gallery Cube." The atrium today, a little used space at the corner of the Grand Concourse and East 165th Street, will be reconfigured both as an energy-efficient "cube" for year-round programming and as a connection between the South Wing, a deconsecrated synagogue, and the Arquitectonica–designed North Wing. “The Bronx Museum of the Arts explores how artistic expression is shaped by the urban experience and cultural interactions, and it is important that its building conveys openness to its physical context, the neighborhood, and the public,” observed Ponce de Leon in a statement. “The creative ferment at The Bronx Museum of the Arts is lively, but constrained within a facility that has evolved incrementally over time without an overarching plan. By uniting these elements to create a new and cohesive whole, and opening the building’s form, this design will weave together the street, visitors, neighbors, and passersby in a new dynamic.” The project is funded through the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and the Department of Cultural Affairs. Total construction costs for this first phase are estimated at $15 million. The Mayor’s Office, the City Council, and the Office of the Bronx Borough President have already allocated around $6.9 million to the Ponce de Leon–designed phase, and the museum is in the midst of a capital campaign to raise and additional $10 million for its endowment. Construction is expected to begin this year and wrap in 2020. Subsequent phases of the project are underway but detail are unconfirmed. The Bronx Museum did say it plans to activate underutilized spaces, transform vacant lots into sculpture gardens, and create a performance and events space.
A formal dedication for a creative urban intervention called ARTfarm brings flowers and greenery to a formerly barren step street in the Bronx. Architects Valeria Bianco, Christian Gonsalves, Shagun Singh, and Justin Taylor designed and built the project with help from Architecture for Humanity and the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Drawing inspiration from a nearby farmers' market, ARTfarm recycles wooden cabinet doors and crates into 59 planters for a variety of plants and transforms a concrete and stone stairway into a lush tiered garden. ARTfarm received $5,000 in funding from the New York Department of Transportation Art Program, pARTners. The program seeks to transform New York's public realm through art and design to create a safer, more inviting streetscape. “From concrete step streets to chain link fences on ordinary street corners, we’re bringing art to streetscapes citywide to redefine these in-between spaces,” said Commissioner Sadik-Khan in a release. “With the help of our local partners, New Yorkers are rediscovering slices of neighborhoods near and far through colorful artwork that makes these places more attractive, welcoming destinations for everyone.” ARTfarm was built by local school children, community residents, and Architecture for Humanity volunteers and will be in place for eleven months. The installation is located on Step Street at 165th Street and Carroll Place in the Bronx.