Artists That Slash, Crash and Cuddle

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If you've seen Gordon Matta-Clark's artwork -– even once -– you will remember the rush of adrenaline it sends through your veins. After all, this is an artist who loved to display the results of violence he perpetrated habitually against the objects of his desire. Think of all the gory scenes from Hollywood movies: knives plunging, bodies falling in slow motion... That's exactly what Gordon Matta-Clark did to abandoned buildings -– carving huge holes in their walls or slashing them with mind-boggling vertical cuts that plunge from top to bottom.

Though he died three decades ago, at the unseemly young age of 35, his works continue to look fresh and unsettling, as if they were made today. A compelling retrospective of his work, currently on display at MOCA, traces the dramatic arc of his career through photographs, drawings, videos and, of course, his unique brand of sculpture –- small and large architectural chunks cut from various buildings. Look at any of his photo-collages composed of images of the buildings brutally hacked up by him to the most beautiful, operatic effect; it's amazing to realize how much cool discipline and control the artist needed to achieve such explosive artistic results. A little over a year ago, the San Diego Museum of Art had a smaller but equally worthy exhibition exploring Gordon Matta-Clark's artistic and filial connection with his famous father, surrealist painter Roberto Matta. It's a pity these two exhibitions, which compliment each other so well, had to be presented a hundred miles and a year apart.

It ought not be a surprise that the other MOCA exhibition, currently on display at the Geffen Contemporary, draws much bigger crowds. After all, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami is a big star on the international art scene. His huge paintings and exquisitely crafted sculptures are inspired by a Japanese cartoon style known as animé. To buy his art, collectors must be willing to shell out millions of dollars. The multitudes of less fortunate Murakami fans are left to buy an endless variety of trinkets -– t-shirts, pins, coffee mugs, notebooks, wallets -– just anything bearing his trademark smiling cartoon characters. Though the influence of his work on contemporary art is significant, I have doubts that it will last through the decades. His cute characters, either painted or sculpted, rarely provide a response beyond what I would describe as ‘warm and fuzzy'. Even when Murakami ventures into sexually charged territory -– in a sculpture of a masturbating boy, or a young woman with milk squirting from her breast -– he is not willing, or able, to elicit from the viewer any complex responses or emotions.

Andy Warhol, in his famous, or if you prefer, infamous 'piss paintings,' literally peed on large sheets of copper and the resultant oxidation created appealing abstract compositions on the metal surface. With the years passing by since his death, Warhol's art continues to extend its influence over the contemporary art scene, while Takashi Murakami's genius lies mainly in the sphere of marketing. I give him respect as the artistic version of a hardworking, short-order cook who satisfies multitudes of customers. To enjoy a gourmet meal, we need a chef of Andy Warhol's vision and talent.

By the way, did you see the Barry McGee exhibition at the Red Cat in Disney Hall? I caught it on the last day just before Thanksgiving. What a riot. Just imagine a car crash that brings a smile to your face...

Gordon Matta-Clark: "You Are The Measure"
September 16, 2007 – January 7, 2008
MOCA Grand Avenue
250 Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012

"© Murakami"
October 29, 2007 – February 11, 2008
Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
152 North Central Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Barry McGee (Exhibition completed)

Takashi Murakami© MURAKAMI, 2007, MOCA installation view, photo by Brian Forrest