- Gordon Matta-Clark (creator)
- Anne Alpert (compiler)
- Jane Crawford (compiler)
Gordon Matta-Clark collection
Level of archival description:
Extent and medium:
- 3.5 l.m. of textual records
0.7 l.m. of photographic materials
297 film and video reels and cassettes
108 drawings, prints and collages
59 audio reels and cassettes
19 sketchbooks, notebooks, address books and artist's books
1 envelope of hair
1 publication proposal
Scope and content:
The Gordon Matta-Clark collection documents the life and work of artist/architect Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-1978). It also includes personal records and letters by and to his parents Roberto Matta (probably 1912-2002) and Anne Alpert (1914-1997), as well as his twin brother, John Sebastian Matta (1943-1976). Through the family correspondence, the collection provides insight into the influence that Matta-Clark's parents, who were both artists, had on his life and his professional practice. Through the personal and professional correspondence, the collection provides an understanding of Matta-Clark's working methods and situates his work in the context of a network of artists from the 1970s. The artwork, photographs, and films in the collection include both working documents and finished works of art which offer insight into his working methods as well as his ideas about art and architecture. The documentation of exhibitions, catalogues, and reviews includes material dating from the beginning of his practice as an artist/architect until the present, as his widow, Jane Crawford, continued to collect both published material, such as exhibition catalogues and ephemera, and unpublished material, such as theses by scholars.
The collection is arranged into 10 series, including: Gordon Matta-Clark's Textual Records; Working Photographs; Notebooks, Sketchbooks, Address Books and Artist's Books; Artwork; Films and Videos; Library; and Artefacts; Anne Alpert's Textual Records and Photographs; Audio and Film Documentation on Gordon Matta-Clark; and Documentation on the Family and Friends of Gordon Matta-Clark.
Collection compiled by Jane Crawford, Gordon Matta-Clark's widow.
Documents were largely arranged by type of material by Jane Crawford, Gordon Matta-Clark's widow, prior to their arrival at the CCA. This preliminary arrangement was used to classify the material into 10 series. Where known, the numbers assigned to objects by the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark have been indicated.
New York City, New York, 22 June 1943 - Nyack, New York, 27 August 1978
Gordon Matta-Clark was the second of twin sons born to two Surrealist artists, Chilean Roberto Matta-Echaurren (probably 1912-2002) and American Anna Louise Clark (1914-1997), who met in Paris where both of them had art included in the same Surrealist exhibition in 1938. After the outbreak of World War II in Europe, the newly married couple moved to New York where their twin sons John Sebastian Matta Echaurren (1943-1976) and Gordon Matta Echaurren-Herboso were born. Shortly afterwards, Matta-Echaurren and his wife separated. The children and their mother then left New York and went to live in Chile with the Matta-Echaurren family. They returned to New York in 1946; in 1948 mother and sons moved to Paris and then back to New York the following year where they settled permanently. Because their mother was involved in the art world in New York-she was romantically involved with sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) before marrying film critic Hollis Alpert (1916- ) in 1950---her sons had an unusual upbringing in which they were exposed to art and artists, some of whom would later provided advice and ideas for them as they began their own careers. Their biological father, Roberto Matta-Echaurren, with whom they spent a number of summers in Europe, however, remained a major force in the lives of children providing financial support and ongoing guidance.
Gordon Matta-Echaurren, as he came to be called, entered the 5-year architecture program at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York in 1962. After a tragic car accident in the spring of 1963 he left school and spent the following academic year in Paris living with his father and studying French. He returned to Cornell in the fall of 1964 and by the time of his graduation in spring 1968 he was among the outstanding students, singled out for awards and commended for his high academic average. Following graduation, he remained in Ithaca living near the Cornell campus while working for the nearby City of Binghamton's architecture department and as an assistant in the Fine Arts programme at Cornell. His first documented art projects, Rope Bridge (1969) and Deflation (1969), date from this period.
In mid-1969, Matta-Echaurren moved to New York City and began using the name Gordon Matta-Clark and the year of his baptism (1945) rather than his actual birth year, in biographical material. His first New York projects involved transformations: by heating as in Photo-Fry (1969), through fermenting as in Agar (1969-1970), by recycling as in Garbage Wall (1970), or with growth as in Time Well (1971). His performance Fresh Air Cart (1971), brought oxygen to office workers on a cart; Pig Roast (1971) fed hundreds of people at an abandoned site under the Brooklyn Bridge; and Tree Dance (1971), presented a dance in rope pods suspended in a tree at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. These temporary events were documented in films and photographs.
The first building interventions, the type of project for which he became best known, occurred in 1971 when he cut walls in a loft in New York City to create Sauna (1971) and in Chile at the Museo de Bellas Artes in Santiago where he made an untitled wall cutting (1971). In the following years, he created larger and more complex projects, invariably in abandoned buildings, which transformed the space by the removal of parts of the walls, the floor, and the roof. Among the most ambitious were A W-Hole House (1973), Splitting (1974), Bingo (1975), and Day's End (1975), large-scale works in Genoa, Italy; Englewood, New Jersey; Buffalo, New York; and New York City respectively. He systematically photographed and filmed these works, later using this material for multiple purposes: films about the project itself, photographic collages, and more traditional documentary views of the spaces. The building cuts were also recalled in artist's books and drawings with cut-out surfaces.
Conical Intersect (1975) created in 17th century houses slated for demolition next to the construction site of the Paris's Beaubourg Museum (now Centre Georges Pompidou), marked a major turning point. The project was the under the sponsorship of the Biennale de Paris and in a highly visible location so that it received international attention. It was followed by other high-profile building cuts sponsored by institutions such as the International Cultureel Centrum in Antwerp which commissioned Office Baroque (1977) and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, which commissioned Caribbean Orange (1978).
Throughout the years of these major building interventions, Matta-Clark continued to explore other aspects of cities and their structures. In Window Blow-Out (1976), he shot out the windows of an exhibition space and installed in their place photographs of public housing with broken windows; in Underground Paris (1977) he documented in photographs the layering of spaces below Parisian buildings. His Environmental Resource Center for Losaida (1977), a project to revitalize a Lower East Side Manhattan neighbourhood through the reuse of buildings renovated by local youth, received support from the Guggenheim Foundation.
Matta-Clark married Jane Crawford in 1978. He died of cancer on August 27, 1978 just two months after his 35th birthday and a little more than two years after the death of his twin brother Sebastian, also an artist, who fell from Gordon's studio window.
Lincoln, Illinois, 5 August 1914 - New York City, New York, 30 March 1997
Anna Louise Clark (also known as Ann Clark, Ann Matta, and later as Anne Alpert) was born on August 5, 1914, the youngest of five children to David Wesley Clark (1874-1940) and Anna Erdmann Clark (1878-1945). A graduate of Lincoln Community High School (class of 1932), she studied at Lincoln College (class of 1934) and then at the Art Institute of Chicago for two years. She later moved to Paris, France and studied art, reportedly only for four months before her work was selected to be included in the International Exhibition of Surrealism in Paris in 1938. While in Paris, she met Chilean Roberto Matta Echaurren (probably 1912-2002) (also known as Roberto Matta and commonly known as Matta), an architect trained in his native Chile who was also involved in the Surrealist movement. They were married in Paris on November 9, 1938.
To escape the war in Europe, the couple moved to New York City, New York in the fall of 1939. They quickly became part of the artistic scene, having been taken under the wing of Yves Tanguy (1900-1955) and his wife Kay Sage Tanguy.
Matta and Anne had twin sons, John Sebastian Matta Echaurren (1943-1976) (later John Sebastian Matta and also known as Batan) and Gordon Matta Echaurren-Herboso (1943-1978) (later Gordon Matta-Echaurren and most commonly known as Gordon Matta-Clark) who were born in New York City on June 22, 1943. The marriage broke apart soon after and in the summer of 1944, mother and children moved to Sag Harbor, Long Island, New York and shared a house with Venezuelan artist Luchita Hurtado (1920-). Through Hurtado, Anne met sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) with whom she started a relationship.
In the winter of 1945, the family was again on the move, now to Chile to stay with the children's paternal grandparents in Santiago. The relationship with Noguchi continued as a romance documented in long letters while lawyers worked on the details of Anne's divorce from Matta.
Anne returned to New York City in the summer of 1946 and again lived on Long Island. Her relationship with Noguchi seems to have ended shortly afterwards, although they remained friends. By the fall of 1946, she and the children had moved to New York City again.
Despite the fact that Matta no longer lived with his family, he remained a strong presence in the life of his former wife and their two sons. He continued to provide financial support, usually with funds from the sale of his paintings; letters document his ongoing concern about their well-being.
In the fall of 1948, mother and sons moved to Paris and then to Mégève, France in the countryside because of the ill health of Gordon who reportedly had tuberculosis. In 1949 or 1950, they returned to New York City and shortly afterwards, Anne became involved with writer Hollis Alpert (1916-) whom she married in 1951.
In 1958, Anne's marriage to Alpert ended and she subsequently lived with James Astor for several years in the 1960s. She remained in New York for the rest of her life, living on 11th Street in New York City in the winter and at Sag Harbor, Long Island in the summer. She was close to many of Gordon's friends and participated as a member of the board of the Gordon Matta-Clark Foundation that gave fellowships to artists following his death. She died on March 30, 1997.
Santiago, Chile, 11 November probably 1912 - Tarquinia, Italy, 23 November 2002
Roberto Matta Echaurren (also known as Roberto Matta and Matta) was born in Santiago, Chile on November 11. He liked to tell people that he was born in 1911 since that would make his birth date 11/11/11, but he was more likely born in 1912. Facts were never very much of interest to him, making it difficult to assemble information that is verified and certain; in interviews and statements, Matta gave contradictory or incorrect information. Married five times, his personal life was also complicated by rumour and innuendo about his involvement with the wives of others.
What is known is that he studied architecture in his native Chile and that he moved to Paris and worked in the studio of Le Corbusier in the mid-1930s. Through a friendship he made at that time with Gordon Onslow Ford, a British painter and contemporary, he learned about Surrealism. He met Salvador Dali and through him André Breton, leader of the Surrealists; gradually, his primary interest in art shifted from architecture to painting.
Matta exhibited at the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme in Paris in 1938 as did Anna Louise Clark (later Anne Alpert), a young American artist from Chicago then in Paris. They were married later that year. In the fall of 1939, together they left France for New York to escape the war in Europe. A number of other artists in their circle made the same move, either before or after them, so that by 1941, Matta and his wife were part of a vibrant circle of Surrealist artists who were exhibiting their work in New York. Matta was to among the most successful contemporary artists showing and selling his work in New York galleries and receiving critical praise in the mid 1940s; he was seem as highly influential on the first generation of American abstract expressionists.
It was into this world of art and artists that his twin sons, John Sebastian (also known as Batan) and Gordon were born in 1943. Matta and his wife separated shortly afterwards; he remained in New York while she moved with the children to spend the remainder of the war years living in Chile with his parents. Matta moved back to Europe permanently in 1948, expelled by the Surrealist group for either personal or artistic reasons, or both.
After his departure for Europe, Matta continued to show his work in New York although he returned only for short visits. As an artist, he continued to paint and draw in a Surrealist mode, but also maintained his ties to architects, occasionally collaborating on projects. He lived in Italy and then in Paris but travelled frequently, establishing a vacation residence and later a small art colony in Tarquinia, Italy. His interests also included science and politics as well as art and architecture; in the late 1960s, he was active in the leftist movements in both France and his native Chile.
While he had four more children from three later marriages, he stayed in contact with his first wife and his sons via letters that offered stern fatherly advice that went along with the money he provided for the support of the children. Both Gordon and Sebastian lived with him and his in Paris for various periods of time in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
While Matta's painting style evolved over his long life, his formative period in Paris and later in New York continued to be perhaps the most important in his career. His work has been the subject many solo and retrospective exhibitions including one at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1957)and at Centre Pompidou in Paris (1985). His works are in many private collections and in major museum collections in Europe, the United States and South America.
Roberto Matta died in Tarquinia, Italy on November 23, 2002.
JOHN SEBASTIAN MATTA
New York City, New York, 26 June 1943 - New York City, New York, 14 June 1976
John Sebastian Matta (also known as Batan-variously spelled as Battan or Baton) was the eldest of twin sons born to two Surrealist artists, Chilean Roberto Matta-Echaurren (probably 1912-2002) and American Anna Louise Clark (1914-1997), who met in Paris where both of them had art included in the same Surrealist exhibition in 1938. After the outbreak of World War II in Europe, the newly married couple moved to New York where John Sebastian Matta Echaurren (1943-1976) and Gordon Matta Echaurren-Herboso (more commonly known as Gordon Matta-Clark) as their twin sons were born. Shortly afterwards, Matta-Echaurren and his wife separated. The children and their mother then left New York and went to live in Chile with the Matta-Echaurren family. They returned to New York in 1946; in 1948 mother and sons moved to Paris and then back to New York the following year where they settled permanently. Because their mother was involved in the art world in New York--she was romantically involved with sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) before marrying film critic Hollis Alpert (1916- ) in 1951--her sons had an unusual upbringing in which they were exposed to art and artists, some of whom would later provided advice and ideas for them as they began their own careers. Their biological father, Roberto Matta-Echaurren, with whom they spent a number of summers in Europe, however, remained a major force in the lives of children providing financial support and ongoing guidance.
John Sebastian showed an extraordinary ability to draw from an early age. His artist-parents encouraged him and his teachers reinforced his interest, particularly since he was a child who had trouble succeeding in school. After leaving the High School for Music and Art in New York City without graduating, Batan spent time living in Paris near his father and his later wife Malitte Matta, and in Italy, where his father also had a home. Batan travelled to the Middle East developing an interest in the art and music of the region, and returned periodically to New York City where he lived near or with his mother or his brother. A very sensitive person, Batan was disturbed by much of what he saw and felt in the world and as he grew older he spent time in psychiatric hospitals in New York and on medication trying to find a way to feel less anxious and disturbed.
While it seems that the initial contact between Batan and art dealers came about through his father, Batan's work was strong enough that others recognized that he was genuinely gifted as an artist. He found early success when one of his works was reproduced in the SMS Portfolio series in 1968, masterminded by Surrealist artist and dealer William Nelson Copley (1919-1996). Credited to "John Battan," the work was the cover image of the third in the series of six portfolios of the ground-breaking project; among the more than fifty varied contemporary artists whose work was included were Marcel Duchamp, Yoko Ono, John Cage, Dick Higgins, and Claes Oldenburg. The portfolio was sold by subscription, as part of the point of the project was to avoid the standard gallery system for sales of works of art.
1975 was a crucial year as Batan had two major exhibitions. The first, an exhibition of drawings by Batan (no last name given), was held from January 15th to February 8th at the Galerie du Dragon in Paris. Shortly afterwards, a show of paintings by Batan was held at the Alexander Iolas Gallery in New York from March 18th to April 12th. His work was also included in a group exhibition at The Ashby Gallery in New York City.
Batan and his brother Gordon, were close throughout their lives. Recognizing Batan's sensitivity and vulnerability to the world, Matta-Clark, an artist/architect, often took on a role of being responsible for his brother and tried to help him to cope with the world. Their parallel interests in art meant that they were not competitive with each other but highly supportive of each other's efforts. Batan died from a fall from Matta-Clark's studio window on June 14, 1976, an event that his twin would describe in a letter as "the greatest tragedy of my life." (Gordon Matta-Clark, letter to Salvatore Ala, 14 July 1976).
Jane Crawford grew up in Florida and was trained at Finch College in New York City, New York. In the mid-1970s, she started The Foundation of Art Performances and Projects, an organization which worked with non-objective artists to help them organize performance and installation projects. It was through this organization that she met Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-1978) in 1976. Crawford and Matta-Clark became involved romantically shortly afterwards and she worked with him on a number of his later projects including Jacob's Ladder (1977), Office Baroque (1977) and The Caribbean Orange (1978) as well as several films. Crawford and Matta-Clark were married in 1978, but he died of cancer on August 27th of that year.
As his widow, she took seriously the job of organizing the material left by the artist at his death. Since so much of his work was conceptual or temporary in nature, the documents describing his work (letters, photographs, notebooks, and sketches) were in many cases the only traces remaining of certain projects. The material became the basis of the chronology of the artist's work that was published in the exhibition catalogue for "Gordon Matta-Clark: A Retrospective", organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Illinois in 1985 . Crawford, with her second husband Robert Fiore, a filmmaker, also organized the films and videos made by Matta-Clark, had them transferred to more stable media, and released them through Electronic Arts Intermix.
Fiore and Crawford with their company, Persistent Pictures, have made films on projects by artists of the 1970s including works by Richard Serra and Robert Smithson as well as films on other subjects, such as wine in France. In 2003, they released a film on Roberto Matta (probably 1912-2002), Matta-Clark's father, compiled from interviews with the artist made in 1984.
Conditions governing access:
- The collection is available for consultation, however access to the series of binders compiled by Anne Alpert requires permission from the CCA and the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark, and some drawings by Matta-Clark can only be consulted with permission of the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark. Additionally, most of the video, film and audio recordings are not currently available for consultation due to their format.
Conditions governing reproduction:
- The rights for all works are held by the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark. Artists Rights Society (www.arsny.com) administers the reproduction rights for the artwork in the collection. The only works not considered artwork are the typewritten texts, and the books. All other works must be treated as if they are artwork and the Artists Rights Society must be contacted. No material may be published in any exhibition, catalogue or other publication, printed or electronic, without the prior consultation and consent of the CCA and the appropriate fee paid to Artists Rights Society.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer:
- The initial deposit (PHCON2002:0016), and the subsequent additions, come from the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark, and were deposited at the CCA beginning in 2002, except for objects PHCON2002:0016:001:018, PHCON2002:0016:071, PHCON2002:0016:081, PHCON2003:0006:030 - PHCON2003:0006:036, PHCON2003:0006:037:001-002, PHCON2003:0006:037:003-004, and PHCON2003:0006:037:005-006 which were donated by the Estate to the CCA. In December 2011, the whole collection was donated by the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark to the CCA, except for a few materials and artworks which remains on deposit.
- The documents were collected and organized by Jane Crawford, Gordon Matta-Clark's widow. Included is material that was collected by Gordon Matta-Clark's mother, Anne Alpert, who at her death left the material to Jane Crawford with the understanding that it would be added to the material she had collected. Documents were transferred to CCA in a series of deposits beginning in 2002.
- The Gordon Matta-Clark collection was described by Gwendolyn Owens, Consulting Curator of the Gordon Matta-Clark Collection, from 2002 to 2008 with the assistance of Martin Lessard, Assistant Archivist, Alexis Lenk, Coordinator, Collection Documentation, and under the supervision of Louise Désy, Curator, Photographs Collection. Alexis Lenk catalogued most objects in the collection and edited the finding aid with Louise Désy.
Language of material:
- Documents are largely in English with a few documents in French, Spanish and Italian.
Related units of description:
- In addition to the materials found in the Gordon Matta-Clark collection, the CCA Collection contains the following objects related to Matta-Clark:
- Two documentary collections of photocopied letters by, and to, Matta-Clark (CD028 Carol Gooden McCoy collection; CD031 Susan Ensley collection).
- Several drawings, photomontages and an artist's book relating to A W-hole House (PH2002:0039:001-011, PH2002:0040:001-006, PH2002:0041:001-007, PH2002:0042:001-007, PH2002:0043:001-009, PH2002:0044, PH2002:0045, PH2002:0046:001-011, PH2002:0047:001-006, PH2002:0048)
- Two photographs by Matta-Clark of Office Baroque (PH1994:0002 and PL2007:0010), and one showing the World Trade Center and relating to Anarchitecture (PH2002:0049)
- A DVD documenting the performance by Matta-Clark and others using his Fresh Air Cart (PH2007:0005)
- Two DVDs of films by Marc Petitjean of Conical Intersect (PH2006:0234 and PH2006:0235)
- A file of documents relating to the production of the film "Substrait", including research notes, reference documents and texts (PH2006:0009:002)
- The book "You Bet!" by Ted Greenwald, dedicated to Matta-Clark and inscribed to Jabez van Cleef and "Lisa" (PH2006:0009:001)
- The CCA Library contains publications by Matta-Clark, copies of many of Matta-Clark's films, and more recent reference materials.
Where pertinent, related objects from the CCA Collection have also been noted elsewhere in the finding aid.
- The collection was processed in accordance with the Canadian Council for Archives "Rules for Archival Description" and the objects have been catalogued following CCA Collection Documentation standards.