Exhibition in Los Angeles unearths Gordon Matta-Clark’s ‘graffiti time capsule’

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Even before he began cutting into buildings in New York City and risked vandalism charges, Gordon Matta-Clark had a keen interest in the way that graffiti artists tagged—and transformed—the city’s storefronts, subways, buses, signage and more. The trains were his focus for a series of hand-coloured black-and-white prints, which have had an exhibition history, but these weren’t the only graffiti photographs he took over the course of 1972 and 1973.

Suspecting that his archive must go a lot deeper, the curator and graffiti historian Roger Gastman reached out to the estate and found around 1,500 images, most unseen and unpublished. He is now presenting about 200 of these in the exhibition Exhibition 011: Graffiti Archive 1972/73 at Control Gallery, not far from the Felix Art Fair.

“The graffiti that Matta-Clark found in 1972 and 1973 was fresh and full of adolescent fun and creativity,” writes artist and writer Caleb Neelon(also known as SONIK) in the catalogue, describing it as an intense period of transformation from “the occasional ‘I was here’ marking” to “a fully fleshed-out artistic game with internal rules, rankings and levels of mastery”. Look for photographs documenting some of the earliest works by artists such as Snake 1, Stay High 149, All Jive 161 and RIFF 170, making for what Gastman calls “a graffiti time capsule”.

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