Trisha Brown’s “Roof Piece,” (1973), depicting dancers on adjacent rooftops
Michael Kimmelman has written “When Art and Energy Were SoHo Neighbors” in the Art & Design section of The New York Times, which looks at New York’s Soho, in the 1970s, with its extraordinary, vibrant artistic energy, and some of the truly inspired “lean times” work of the choreographer Trisha Brown, the artist Gordon Matta-Clark, and the performance artist Laurie Anderson and includes some wonderful photos as well as a brief, but poignant interview with Anderson. All this in the context of the show at the Barbican Art Gallery entitled “Laurie Anderson, Trisha Brown, Gordon Matta-Clark – Pioneers of the Downtown Scene New York 1970s” (through 22 May 2011) which includes sculptures, drawings, photographs, documentation of performances and mixed media works, and which The Guardian has called simply a “brilliant exhibition”.
Here’s what the Barbican has to say about the exhibition:
Performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson, choreographer Trisha Brown and artist Gordon Matta-Clark were friends and active participants in the New York art community, working fluidly between visual art and performance.
With the city as their backdrop, canvas, stage and inspiration, this exhibition is the first major presentation to examine the experimental and often daring approaches taken by these three key figures, both individually and collectively, in the burgeoning arts scene in downtown New York during the 1970s.
New York City provided a powerful context for the work of Anderson, Brown and Matta-Clark. On the verge of bankruptcy in the 1970s, the disappearance of manufacturing and other major industries and the withdrawal of public services were turning the city into a centre of widespread unemployment and lawlessness. Artists responded by taking over derelict spaces to make and exhibit their work, by using the city itself as the medium or setting for their work, by creating opportunities to engage directly with the public out of doors and by building a vibrant arts community.
Gordon Matta-Clark, Open House, 1972
Kimmelman offers some perceptive observations regarding the art scene, then and now, including an astute, if sadly true, comparison of the 70s New York downtown art scene and the current “art scene” style of contemporary Berlin. Economics, certainly; motivation, aspiration, inspiration, even more so…
images: top, Babette Mangolte/The New York Times; bottom, courtesy Jane Crawford. © Estate of Cosmos Andress Sarchiapone. © 2010 Estate of Gordon Matta- Clark/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, DACS London