At Zwirner, Gordon Matta-Clark Writes in Tongues

THE DAILY PIC: Matta-Clark's cryptic scripts echo medieval nonsense texts.


THE DAILY PIC (#1410): A scholar friend of mine named Alexander Nagel has written a book on how medieval and modern art can echo and rhyme in their most fundamental approaches to meaning and images. He’s also done research, separately, on the so-called “pseudo-scripts” that Renaissance artists used to evoke the eastern-ness of the early Christian church – usually in the form of fake-Arabic or false-Hebrew inscriptions that they stuck on saints’ halos and robes. (It’s a long story…) So imagine my surprise when, on a recent visit to David Zwirner’s gallery in New York, I came across a bunch of pseudo-scripts written in the early 1970s by the wonderful modern artist Gordon Matta-Clark – who isn’t in Nagel’s book.

I doubt that Matta-Clark knew the Renaissance precedent for his indecipherable texts, but I think he’s channeling some of the same forces: A sense that letters have magical powers that are almost stronger when you can’t read them, and a sense that unreadable scripts return us to an era that’s less pedestrian than our own. They take us somewhere distant in place and time, just as they did 500 years ago. (Artwork courtesy The Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark and David Zwirner, New York/London)

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