Visiting scholar Mary Woods presents her research:
During the 1960s and 1970s, Buffalo and New York City were in economic decline and social and political turmoil. In their deindustrialized landscapes, however, Gordon Matta-Clark and other artists like Trisha Brown and Laurie Anderson created SOHO, an avant-garde community, from the abandoned factories and warehouses south of Houston Street. Although not as well known today, Buffalo too had its avant-garde in the 1970s. Here artists Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo, and Bill Viola built studios, galleries, and performance spaces in its derelict buildings.
Educated at Cornell University, where he did his first art installations, Matta-Clark bridged the avant-gardes of upstate and downstate New York with his cuts into abandoned and soon-to-be-demolished structures. Drawing on the Gordon Matta-Clark collection and other CCA archives, this lecture explores the art and community he and others created from the ruins of Buffalo and New York. Unlike Robert Moses, who understood urban renewal as demolition and displacement, and contemporary photographers who traffic in ruin porn’s beauty and despair, Matta-Clark envisioned another urban paradigm possible from decay and devastation. Today his legacy is a tale of both hope and caution as we confront deindustrialized landscapes in not only cities of the American Rustbelt but also around the world.
Mary N. Woods is professor of architectural history at Cornell University. She was the first to hold the Michael A. McCarthy Chair in Architectural Theory at Cornell. Her work spans film, photography, and urban and built environments in the United States and India. She is the author of From Craft to Profession (1999), a history of architectural education and practice in the United States, and Beyond the Architect’s Eye (2009 and 2014), an account of photography and the American built environment. Her forthcoming book is a history of women architects in Mumbai and Delhi from independence to today. Her residency at the CCA involves research into the imagery of urban ruin and renewal since the 1960s in New York and India.
Mary Woods was a Visiting Scholar at the CCA in 2015.
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