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Gordon Matta-Clark

Edited by Corinne Diserens. Phaidon, 2003. 241pp. £39.95

Given the AA's current show, the publication of Phaidon's new book on Gordon Matta-Clark is well timed, writes Andrew Mead . While it doesn't document all his work as fully as the catalogue that accompanied his IVAM Valencia/Serpentine retrospective in 1992 (now hard to find), it is still comprehensive, and makes the most of the visual material that survives from these ephemeral interventions - as all Matta-Clark's major ones were. He was one step ahead of the demolition crew, sometimes operating illegally, in situations where the audience that could experience the spatial consequences of his cuts into building fabric (trespassers apart) was negligible.

Whether in Paris beside the Pompidou, in an office block in Antwerp or a wharf building by the Hudson River in New York, what he did is irrecoverable - a matter now of images (photographs and films), contemporary accounts and current reminiscences. And, in this respect, the Phaidon book is very valuable. In the main essay, Thomas Crow gives a lucid, informative account of Matta-Clark's art and times, but it is the documents towards the end of the book - reprints of articles, recollections by surviving colleagues and friends, and above all several interviews with Matta-Clark himself, in which he is very articulate about his motives and tactics - that really bring his enterprise alive.

His was a Baroque sensibility fuelled by the transgressive or subversive impulses of late 1960s counter-culture - an odd fusion; though he had perhaps taken the building 'cuts' about as far as they could go, and Crow rightly observes that 'a certain conceptual exhaustion' was beginning to set in.

'It was always exciting working with Gordon - there was always a good chance of getting killed, ' said one of his collaborators; but MattaClark died abruptly of cancer in 1977 aged 35.

In the last year of his life, he was increasingly interested in the subterranean , and what lay beneath the surface of the city. Perhaps that was the new direction he would have needed.

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