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Hardcover | Out of Print | 240 pp. | 7 x 9 in | December 1999 | ISBN: 9780262122207
Paperback | $30.95 Trade | £25.95 | 240 pp. | 7 x 9 in | August 2001 | ISBN: 9780262621564
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Object to Be Destroyed

The Work of Gordon Matta-Clark


Although highly regarded during his short life—and honored by artists and architects today—the American artist Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-78) has been largely ignored within the history of art. Matta-Clark is best remembered for site-specific projects known as "building cuts." Sculptural transformations of architecture produced through direct cuts into buildings scheduled for demolition, these works now exist only as sculptural fragments, photographs, and film and video documentations. Matta-Clark is also remembered as a catalytic force in the creation of SoHo in the early 1970s. Through loft activities, site projects at the exhibition space 112 Greene Street, and his work at the restaurant Food, he participated in the production of a new social and artistic space.

Have art historians written so little about Matta-Clark's work because of its ephemerality, or, as Pamela M. Lee argues, because of its historiographic, political, and social dimensions? What did the activity of carving up a building-in anticipation of its destruction—suggest about the conditions of art making, architecture, and urbanism in the 1970s? What was one to make of the paradox attendant on its making—that the production of the object was contingent upon its ruination? How do these projects address the very writing of history, a history that imagines itself building toward an ideal work in the service of progress?

In this first critical account of Matta-Clark's work, Lee considers it in the context of the art of the 1970s—particularly site-specific, conceptual, and minimalist practices—and its confrontation with issues of community, property, the alienation of urban space, the "right to the city," and the ideologies of progress that have defined modern building programs.

About the Author

Pamela M. Lee is Professor of Art History at Stanford University and the author of Object to Be Destroyed: The Work of Gordon Matta-Clark and Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the 1960s, both published by the MIT Press.


“The book is one of the very few about this fascinating artist, whose work survives only in photographs and who is a demigod among architecture students to this day.”—Globe & Mail


“"This book is the first comprehensive study of Gordon Matta-Clark, an artist who personifies the radically inventive and interrogative spirit of art in the 1970's. Bringing ideas about urbanism, property, and community to bear on Matta-Clark's work, but never losing sight of its specificity as an aesthetic practice, Object to Be Destroyed is a gift to anyone interested in contemporary art."”
Rosalyn Deutsche, author of Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics
“"Object to Be Destroyed is a rare thing. Pamela Lee has written an excellent monograph on Gordon Matta-Clark--an artist whose work has long deserved rigorous historical analysis--while at the same time launching a thought-provoking philosophical meditation on the nature of art and work in the late 20th century."”
David Joselit, Associate Professor, Department of Art History, University of California
“"Immensely smart, Pam Lee's book connects the paradoxically ambitious 'worklessness' of Matta-Clark's important projects of the 1970s to the workings of many other things: play, community, Bataille's sacrificial economy, photography, the art world, Manhattan real estate development, and art history itself. This is a tough, trenchant, wonderful book, and the grounds for Matta-Clark's long-established cult reputation are lucidly explicated and secured."”
Caroline A. Jones, Art History Department, Boston University, author of Machine in the Studio