1970s New York graffiti as photographed by Gordon Matta-Clark

Beyond the Streets, a graffiti and street art inspired exhibition, retail and publishing company, along with Control Gallery (Los Angeles) present EXHIBITION 010: GRAFFITI ARCHIVE 1972/73, an unprecedented glimpse into the raw, untamed world of New York City’s graffiti scene during the pivotal years of 1972 and 1973. Curated from the late artist Gordon Matta-Clark’s photographic archives, the show presents over 200 carefully selected photographs, many of which have never been revealed to the public until now.

New York graffiti in the Early 1970s

In the summer of 1972, the then 29-year old Matta-Clark began to photograph the city’s exploding graffiti movement. As a lifelong downtown New Yorker, he had seen the city before graffiti, something that was not the case for the many artists who as young adults flocked to New York in the early 1970s.

Matta-Clark’s native New Yorker artistic bohemian pedigree was strong. He may have been the only artist at the time who had an artistic aim rather than an aim to document the movement. His lens was that of an artist, not of a scholar. With a kind view of graffiti at the time, he felt it was a people’s art revolution that took back the city and beautified it on the participants’ own terms. 

The graffiti that Matta-Clark found was fresh and full of adolescent fun and creativity and incorporated many of the early standard hallmarks of graffiti today: 3D, characters, arrows, and connections between the letters.

By the late 1960s, the graffiti scene in New York City had remained relatively unchanged for centuries. However, in the mid-1970s, a remarkable transformation occurred as teenagers turned ordinary graffiti into a burgeoning art form. This rapid evolution marked one of the swiftest developments in the realm of art movements.

Only a limited number of forward-thinking individuals in New York recognized the potential of capturing the captivating chaos displayed on walls and subways through photography. The subset who not only recognized, but also actively documented this burgeoning graffiti movement between 1970 and 1975 was small. Depending on your interpretation of “substantial,” this number might be in the single digits. Gordon Matta-Clark belonged to this select group, capturing over 2,000 images of New York City graffiti between 1972 and 1973.

Working closely with the estate of Gordon Matta-Clark, Beyond the Streets brings this remarkable collection to light, offering art fans, historians, and urban culture enthusiasts an unparalleled opportunity to witness the evolution of street art through the eyes of a true visionary.

“It’s not just about showcasing graffiti—it’s a genuine homage to real history, a glimpse into the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ and ‘where’ of these vibrant stories etched onto walls and trains,” Roger Gastman, graffiti art historian, writer and dealer, and curator and producer of Beyond the Streets, said. “I can’t help, but feel happiness, knowing that Gordon Matta-Clark had the foresight to capture these moments and that his estate entrusted us to put this show together. Throughout the years, I’ve invested considerable time into unearthing vintage gems from the early ’70s—drawings, paintings, and ephemera that tell stories of a bygone era. This exhibition, for me, is like revealing a well-kept secret, placing these treasures in their genuine context.”

Gordon Matta-Clark Exhibition

Gordon Matta-Clark, '7up,' 1972
Gordon Matta-Clark, ‘7up,’ 1972. Photo courtesy Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark

The exhibition, which preserves moments of rebellion, self-expression, and cultural commentary that defined a movement, will also display original, vintage artworks from artists whose work is immortalized within Matta-Clark’s photographs, including two dozen large scale paintings and drawings from the early 1970s by SNAKE 1, SJK 171, LEE 173rd, WICKED GARY, TRACY 168, and STAY HIGH 149, amongst several others. The show transcends traditional exhibition boundaries with an immersive academic exploration that creates a bridge between the past and the present, featuring meticulous curation from Gastman to present original works in situ through Matta-Clark’s lens. 

The opening reception for EXHIBITION 010: GRAFFITI ARCHIVE 1972/73 will be held on Friday, March 1, 2024, from 6PM – 9PM at Control Gallery. The exhibition runs through April 13, 2024.

To coincide with the show, Beyond the Streets publishing will be releasing a new, 408-page, hardbound Gordon Matta-Clark book featuring 550+ images, including photos from the exhibition, edited by Gastman, with essays from Carlo McCormick, Caleb Neelon and Chris Pape. 

Control Gallery and Retail Hours: 

Wednesday – Saturday: 11AM – 6PM

Sunday – Tuesday: Closed

Extended Hours During Los Angeles Frieze week: Open Sunday, March 3, 2024: 11AM – 6PM

Address: 

434 N La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036 

About Gordon Matta-Clark

Born in New York City in 1943 to artists Roberto Matta and Anne Clark, Gordon Matta-Clark came of age during a time of political turmoil against a backdrop of urban infrastructure in crisis. He studied architecture and graduated from Cornell University in 1968, returning to his native New York City the following year.

Struck by the inability of Modernist forms to provide solutions to the city’s increasing social problems, he began to combine his activist concerns with his artistic production. He helped establish alternative spaces such as 112 Greene Street, and the Food Restaurant in SoHo and engaged with peer artists and non-artists in collaboration that aimed to improve their surroundings.

In the 1970s, Matta-Clark experimented across various media and began staging monumental interventions and smaller-scale installations in the charged city landscape, bringing attention to New York’s failing social policies, displaced people, and abandoned spaces. He also implemented a number of important interventions across Europe, in Milano, Paris, Antwerp and Kassel.

Gordon Matta-Clark died from cancer in 1978 at the age of 35.

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 traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

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