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David Zwirner, 537 West 20th Street presents Dan Flavin || Gordon Matta-Clark

Archive | Information & News

10 Sept 2015 to 24 Oct 2015
Tuesday – Saturday, 10 AM – 6 PM
Monday by appointment
David Zwirner
537 West 20th Street
New York, NY
New York
North America
T: +1 212 517 8677
F: +1 212 517 8959

Dan Flavin, untitled (to Sonja), 1969
yellow and green fluorescent light approx. 32 ft. (976 cm) long overall
© 2015 Stephen Flavin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Artists in this exhibition: Dan Flavin, Gordon Matta-Clark

Dan Flavin Corners, Barriers and Corridors

September 10 - October 24, 2015

Opening reception: Thursday, September 10, 6 – 8 PM
Press preview with Senior Partner Kristine Bell: Wednesday, September 9, 10 AM

David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of significant “corner,” “barrier” and “corridor” works from the late 1960s and early 1970s by Dan Flavin, on view at 537 West 20th Street in New York.  

From 1963, when he conceived the diagonal of May 25, 1963 (to Constantin Brancusi), a single gold, fluorescent lamp installed diagonally on a wall, until his death in 1996, Flavin produced a singularly consistent and prodigious body of work that utilized commercially available fluorescent lamps to create installations (or “situations,” as he preferred to call them) of light and color.  

Taking the thematically related show corners, barriers and corridors in fluorescent light from Dan Flavin (which was presented by the artist at the Saint Louis Art Museum in 1973) as a point of departure, the exhibition at David Zwirner will examine how Flavin established and redefined space through light constructions in three formats that were at the core of his practice. The artist’s “corner,” “barrier” and “corridor” works explicitly implicate their surrounding architecture while physically mediating the viewers’ experience and perception of space.  

Among the works on view will be a notable two-part “barrier” in yellow and green dedicated to his wife, untitled (to Sonja), 1969, which was first shown as Flavin’s contribution to the significant group exhibition Spaces at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1969-70. (Organized by Jennifer Licht, the show also included works by Michael Asher, Larry Bell, Robert Morris, Franz Erhard Walther, and the Pulsa group—who each created individual projects and “whose common interest lies in an encompassing spatial experience as the primary condition of the work of art.”1) Flavin’s installation comprised rectangular units of colored fluorescent tubes that formed two interior barriers that begin in the corners of the entrance wall and extend to the far end of the room, altering space with colored light and physically modifying the visitors’ experience of the room. This will be the first time it has been shown since the MoMA exhibition.  

Also in the exhibition will be a rare barrier that shines white fluorescent light into an empty room while rendering it inaccessible: untitled (to Dorothy and Roy Lichtenstein on not seeing anyone in the room), 1968, was first shown at the Dwan Gallery, New York, in 1968 and has not been exhibited since 1970 (when it was in Flavin’s traveling solo exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Canada). The work’s dedication makes reference to a 1961 painting by Roy Lichtenstein titled I can see the whole room!…And there’s nobody in it!  

A “corridor” in yellow and pink fluorescent light from 1972-75, untitled (to Barry, Mike, Chuck and Leonard), will also be presented. The work divides an architectural passageway into two mutually inaccessible, obstructed fields of color and light, playing on the viewers’ cognitive and physical perception of distinctly colored, opposite ends of the same space.  

The show will also feature a room devoted to a sequence of four related corner constructions dedicated to the artist Barnett Newman: untitled (to Barnett Newman) one-four, 1971, which highlight the four corners of the room by serially investigating the same rectangular form in different configurations of yellow, red, and blue fluorescent light. These works have not been on view in the United States since their first presentation in Flavin’s 1971 solo exhibition at the Dwan Gallery, New York.  

Another work in the exhibition features the artist’s less-known use of circular light fixtures: untitled (to a man, George McGovern) 2, from 1972, succinctly illuminates the corners of a given space in its wall-mounted triangular construction of warm white circular lamps.  

David Zwirner Books will be publishing a catalogue on the occasion of the exhibition, which will include new scholarship by Michael Auping, Chief Curator, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas.  

1 Press release for The Museum of Modern Art’s Spaces exhibition, 1969-70.  

For all press inquiries and to RSVP to the September 9 press preview, contact

Kim Donica +1 212 727 2070


Gordon Matta-Clark Energy & Abstraction

September 9 - October 24, 2015

Opening reception: Wednesday, September 9, 6 – 8 PM
Press preview with Jessamyn Fiore from the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark: 10:30 AM     David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of Gordon Matta-Clark’s drawings, a medium the artist explored continuously throughout his career, alongside the architectural cuts and photographs for which he is most known. On view at 537 West 20th Street in New York will be rarely shown works that reveal on an intimate scale some of the major ideas underpinning his practice.  

With his drawings—which span three-dimensional reliefs, calligraphy, and notebook entries—Matta-Clark captured the interdisciplinary spirit that defined the art world in the 1970s. Intricate and yet concise, they testify to his interest in the crossovers between visual and performance arts, as well as the broader integration within his oeuvre of the natural and built environment—trained in architecture, the artist keenly explored options for creating “breathing cities” in treetops as well as below ground, subverting traditional ideas about urban planning.  

In the Cut Drawings, which he worked on throughout the decade, Matta-Clark explored parallel, smaller-format versions of his physical interventions in architecture, slicing meticulously through several layers of paper, gesso, or cardboard to create sculptural objects that emphasized the voids created from the extraction of space. The miniature sawing constituted a performance in itself, with the resulting works revealing more clearly the geometrical patterns employed in the actual building cuts. In studies for these works, also on view, the corporeal element is further reduced to meditations on the relationship between squares, triangles, circles, and diagonals. The exhibition brings together the largest selection of Cut Drawings and related studies in over twenty years.  

Drawings with Matta-Clark’s own “calligraphy” can be seen as iterations of his wider approach to the medium as an independent language in and of itself, with some also incorporating references to musical notation. Abstract letters, spelled out line above line, make up a code that remains undecipherable, but points towards a visionary longing to invent new structures of experience.  

Some of the most elaborate and colorful compositions include trees, and several refer explicitly to Matta-Clark’s Tree Dance performance at Vassar College in upstate New York in 1971. Here, he hung several rope sacks and swings in the crowns of two adjacent trees connected by rope ladders. Playing with the idea of an alternative, natural living environment, he invited friends to move between the trees and utilize them as temporary dwellings. Drawings preceding and following the event reflect the coexistence of dance, sculpture, and architecture, with subsequent compositions focusing exclusively on lines of movement and energy flows. The physical structures of the trees appear to “dissolve” into kinetic energy and, in some drawings, become reduced to a multitude of arrows. Near-abstract tree shapes also incorporate calligraphic marks, with branches constructed solely from imaginary letters. Yet others are diagrammatic in appearance, outlining utopian proposals for biomorphic construction.  

Another series of drawings explore energy flows within four corners and seem to chart the spatial perception of dancers while at the same time referencing the new and often vertiginous perspectives created by the artist’s building cuts. The loose, almost immaterial structures of the Energy Rooms also recall his involvement with the artist-run Anarchitecture group, founded in 1973, which sought to define alternatives to existing architecture, often formulating knowingly unrealizable projects. Several drawings are executed in notebooks, with Matta-Clark insisting on completing all the pages in one sitting. Combining elements of Surrealist automatic drawing with an interest in choreography, these works appealed to performers at the time—including Laurie Anderson and Trisha Brown—while their own making constituted an animated physical event in itself. As the artist Mary Heilmann, a contemporary of Matta-Clark, recalls: “When he was making drawings, he would work in a state of frenzy. His face would get determined . . . and he’d do a little devil dance. He’d take colored pencils, dig in, press real hard and fast, and would scribble along. I loved those writing pieces. He would do that automatic writing in a way that was otherworldly, mysterious.”1  

The exhibition is organized in collaboration with Jane Crawford and Jessamyn Fiore from the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark.  

In early 2016, David Zwirner Books will publish a catalogue featuring installation views from the exhibition as well as new scholarship by the art historian Briony Fer and a conversation between the artist Sarah Sze and Jessamyn Fiore.    

Born in New York in 1943, Gordon Matta-Clark is widely considered one of the most influential artists working in the 1970s. He was a key contributor to the activity and growth of the New York art world in SoHo from the late 1960s until his untimely death in 1978.  

Since 1998, the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark has been represented by David Zwirner. Energy & Abstraction marks the sixth solo exhibition of his work at the gallery in New York.  

In 1985, the first museum retrospective of Matta-Clark’s work was presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and traveled until 1989 to over a dozen institutions worldwide, including the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Kunsthalle Basel; Le Nouveau Musée, Villeurbanne, France; Brooklyn Museum; and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. In 1997, the Generali Foundation, Vienna prepared the first comprehensive overview dedicated to the artist’s drawing practice, consisting of over six hundred works on paper. It toured through 2000 to the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; Institute for Art and Urban Resources at P.S.1, Long Island City, New York; and the Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Münster, Germany.  

In 2007, Gordon Matta-Clark: You Are the Measure was the first full-scale retrospective organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, which subsequently traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. From 2009 to 2010, Gordon Matta-Clark: Undoing Spaces—the first major survey of his work in South America—toured to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago; Museu de Arte Moderna, São Paulo; Paco Imperial, Rio de Janeiro; and Museo de Arte de Lima.  

Matta-Clark’s work is represented in prominent public collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, Antwerp; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The Gordon Matta-Clark Archive is held at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, and includes the artist’s personal correspondence, notebooks, drawings, photographs, slides, films, as well as other archival material documenting his life and work.  

1Mary Heilmann, cited in Sabine Breitwieser, “Reorganizing Structure . . . ,” in Breitwieser, ed., Reorganizing Structure by Drawing Through It: Zeichnung bei Gordon Matta-Clark. Exh. cat. (Vienna: Generali Foundation, 1997), p. 15.    

For all press inquiries and to RSVP to the September 9 press preview, contact
Kim Donica +1 212 727 2070

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