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Matthew Barney

Matthew Barney

Barney talking at the Hirshhorn.
Born (1967-03-25) March 25, 1967 (age 45)
San Francisco, California, United States
Nationality United States American
Field Film, Video art, Sculpture, Photography
Training Yale University
Works Cremaster Cycle, Drawing Restraint 9, Drawing Restraint 17
Awards Hugo Boss Prize

Matthew Barney (born March 25, 1967) is an American artist who works in sculpture, photography, drawing and film. His early works were sculptural installations combined with performance and video. Between 1994 and 2002 he created the Cremaster Cycle, a series of five films described by Jonathan Jones in The Guardian as "one of the most imaginative and brilliant achievements in the history of avant-garde cinema."[1]


  Life and career

Matthew Barney was born March 25, 1967, in San Francisco, California. He lived in Boise, Idaho from 1973 to 1985, where he attended elementary, middle, and high school. His parents divorced and his mother moved to New York City, where he would frequently visit, and where he was introduced to the art scene.[2] In 1989, he graduated from Yale University. His earliest works, created at Yale, were staged at the university’s athletic complex. In the 90s, Barney moved to New York, where he worked as a male model—more notably for J.Crew catalogues—a career that helped him finance his early work as an artist. Barney lives with his partner, singer Björk, with whom he had a daughter in 2002.[3]


  Drawing Restraint (1987–)

The ongoing Drawing Restraint series was begun in 1987 as a series of studio experiments, drawing upon an athletic model of development in which growth occurs only through restraint: the muscle encounters resistance, becomes engorged and is broken down, and in healing becomes stronger. In literally restraining the body while attempting to make a drawing, Drawing Restraints 1–6 (1987–89) were documented with video and photography. Drawing Restraint 7 marks the influx of narrative and characterization, resulting in a three channel video and series of drawings and photographs, for which Barney was awarded the Aperto prize in the 1993 Venice Biennale.

A series of ten vitrines containing drawings, Drawing Restraint 8 was included in the 2003 Venice Biennale and prefigured the narrative development for Drawing Restraint 9 (2005). A major project consisting of a feature-length film with soundtrack composed by Björk, large-scale sculptures, photographs and drawings, Drawing Restraint 9 was built upon themes such as the Shinto religion, the tea ceremony, the history of whaling, and the supplantation of blubber with refined petroleum for oil. A full-scale survey of Barney's work through Drawing Restraint 9 was held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2006 and included over 150 objects of varying media.[4] Drawing Restraints 10 – 16 (2005–07) are site-specific performances that recall the earlier Yale pieces.

Drawing Restraint 17 and 18 were performed at the Schaulager, Basel in 2010 in conjunction with the exhibition "Prayer Sheet with the Wound and the Nail," a survey of the Drawing Restraint series through Drawing Restraint 18.[5]

Barney's most recent installation in the series, Drawing Restraint 19, employs a skateboard as a drawing tool. A block of granite is mounted beneath the skateboard deck, on the front end of the board. The skater performs a nose manual (a wheelie on the nose of the board, leaning in the direction of movement) across a smooth surface, tipping the nose of the board forward and leaving behind a drawn graphite line. The piece is part of a benefit art show and auction entitled Good Wood Exhibit, raising awareness and funds for a Do-It-Yourself skatepark project in Detroit, Michigan.

  The Cremaster Cycle (1994–2002)

Barney's epic Cremaster cycle (1994–2002) is a project consisting of five feature-length films that explore processes of creation. His concentration in sculpture is accentuated by his use of video. Barney uses video to perfect his sculpture by evaluating positioning, lighting, size and shape, using video as a means to his end product of sculpture [6] Barney’s long-time collaborator Jonathan Bepler composed and arranged the films’ soundtracks. The cycle unfolds not just cinematically, but also through the photographs, drawings, sculptures, and installations the artist produces in conjunction with each episode. Its conceptual departure point is the male cremaster muscle, which controls testicular contractions in response to external stimuli.

The project is rife with anatomical allusions to the position of the reproductive organs during the embryonic process of sexual differentiation: Cremaster 1 represents the most "ascended" or undifferentiated state, Cremaster 5 the most "descended" or differentiated. The cycle repeatedly returns to those moments during early sexual development in which the outcome of the process is still unknown. In Barney's metaphoric universe, these moments represent a condition of pure potentiality. As the cycle evolved over eight years, Barney looked beyond biology as a way to explore the creation of form, employing narrative models from other realms, such as biography, mythology, and geology. The photographs, drawings, and sculptures radiate outward from the narrative core of each film installment. Barney's photographs—framed in plastic and often arranged in diptychs and triptychs that distill moments from the plot—often emulate classical portraiture. His graphite and petroleum jelly drawings represent key aspects of the project's conceptual framework.[7]

  Performance pieces

Barney has explored live performance before an audience. The pieces Ren and Guardian of the Veil revisit the language of the Cremaster Cycle, via a ritualistic exploration of Egyptian symbolism inspired by Norman Mailer's novel Ancient Evenings. Guardian of the Veil took place on July 12, 2007 at the Manchester Festival in England. REN took place on May 18, 2008 in Los Angeles. His most recent performance, KHU, the second part in his seven-part performance series in collaboration with Bepler inspired by Ancient Evenings took place on October 2, 2010 in Detroit.[8]

In June 2009, a collaboration between Barney and Elizabeth Peyton, entitled Blood of Two, was performed for the opening of the Deste Foundation's exhibition space, the Slaughterhouse, located on the Greek island Hydra. The two-hour performance involved divers retrieving from a nearby cove a vitrine containing drawings which had been submerged for months. A funeral-like procession of fishermen carried the case up a winding set of stairs. At one point, a dead shark was laid on the case, and the fishermen proceeded to the gallery space, carrying the case and shark, accompanied by the onlookers and a herd of goats. At the Slaughterhouse, the case was opened, water poured out, and the drawings revealed. The shark was eventually cooked and fed to the guests.[9][10]

  Awards and prizes


  • Barney, Matthew. Matthew Barney: new work, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, December 12, 1991 through January 30, 1992. San Francisco Museum of Art, 1991. ISBN 0-918471-23-0.
  • Barney, Matthew. Pace car for the hubris pill. Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 1995. ISBN 90-6918-148-7.
  • Barney, Matthew. Cremaster 4. Foundation Cartier, Paris and Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York, 1995. Essay by James Lingwood. ISBN 978-2-86925-051-2.
  • Barney, Matthew. Cremaster 1. Kunsthalle Wien, Museum für Gegenwartskunst Basel, 1997. ISBN 3-85247-013-7.
  • Barney, Matthew. Cremaster 5. Portikus Frankfurt, Germany and Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York, 1997. ISBN 978-1-881616-87-0.
  • Barney, Matthew. Cremaster 2. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1999. ISBN 978-0-935640-64-9.
  • Barney, Matthew. Cremaster 3. Guggenheim Museum, New York, dist. by D.A.P., 2002. ISBN 0-89207-253-9.
  • Spector, Nancy, and Matthew Barney. Matthew Barney: The Cremaster Cycle. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Catalogue published by Harry N. Abrams, 2002. ISBN 0-8109-6935-1.
  • Barney, Matthew. DRAWING RESTRAINT Volume 1. Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Köln, Germany 2005. ISBN 0-9795077-0-7.
  • Barney, Matthew. DRAWING RESTRAINT Volume 2. Uplink Co., Tokyo, 2005. ISBN 4-900728-14-4.
  • Barney, Matthew. DRAWING RESTRAINT Volume 3. Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea, 2005. ISBN 89-85468-34-0.
  • Barney, Matthew. DRAWING RESTRAINT Volume 4. JMc & GHB Editions, New York, 2007, Matthew Barney, Sammlung-Goetz, Munich, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9795077-0-0.
  • Barney, Matthew. DRAWING RESTRAINT Volume 5. Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Köln, Germany, 2007. ISBN 978-3-86560-318-0.
  • Barney, Matthew, Karsten Löckemann, and Stephan Urbaschek. Matthew Barney. Kunstverlag Ingvild Goetz, München, Germany, 2007. ISBN 978-3-939894-09-4.
  • Barney, Matthew, and Olga Gambari. Matthew Barney: mitologie contemporanee. Fondazione Merz, Torino, 2009. ISBN 978-88-7757-235-6.

  Filmed works

  • (1994) Cremaster 4
  • (1995) Cremaster 1
  • (1997) Cremaster 5
  • (1999) Cremaster 2
  • (2002) Cremaster 3
  • (2005) Drawing Restraint 9
  • (2005) De Lama Lamina
  • (2006) Destricted

  References and notes

  1. ^ Jonathan Jones, The myth-maker, The Guardian, 16 October 2002.
  2. ^ Matthew Barney Biography. Cremasterfanatic.com. Retrieved on 2011-02-28.
  3. ^ Björk — Biography on IMDB.
  4. ^ Matthew Barney: Drawing Restraint at SFMOMA.
  5. ^ Matthew Barney: Prayer Sheet with the Wound and the Nail
  6. ^ The Body as Matrix: Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle. Perf. Matthew Barney. DVD. Films Media Group Co., 2004.
  7. ^ http://www.guggenheim.org
  8. ^ "Matthew Barney's Heart of Darkness". The Brooklyn Rail. http://brooklynrail.org/2010/11/artseen/matthew-barneys-heart-of-darkness. 
  9. ^ Item idem, "Now Viewing | ‘Blood of Two’" The Moment June 17, 2009 nytimes.com Retrieved on July 13, 2009.
  10. ^ Yablonsky, Linda. "Greek Mythology" Art Forum. June 23, 2009. Retrieved July 13, 2009
  11. ^ 'Hugo Boss Prize website'. Retrieved 31 January 2010.

  Further reading

  • Riley, Robert R. "The Expanse of Energy," in Matthew Barney: New Work. exh. cat. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1991. ISBN 0-918471-23-0
  • Bryson, Norman. "Matthew Barney's Gonadotrophic Cavalcade," Parkett, No. 45, 1995, pp. 29–35. ISBN 3-907509-95-1
  • Onfray, Michel. "Mannerist Variations on Matthew Barney," Parkett, No. 45, 1995, pp. 50–57. ISBN 3-907509-95-1
  • Seward, Keith. "Matthew Barney and Beyond," Parkett, No. 45, 1995, pp. 58–60. ISBN 3-907509-95-1
  • Goodeve, Thyrza Nichols. "Matthew Barney 95 Suspension [Cremaster] Secretion [pearl] Secret [biology]," Parkett, No. 45, 1995, pp. 67–69. ISBN 3-907509-95-1
  • Ulrich-Obrist, Hans. Interview with Matthew Barney in DRAWING RESTRAINT Volume 1. Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Köln, Germany 2005, pp. 87–91. ISBN 0-9795077-0-7.
  • Spector, Nancy. "in potentia: Matthew Barney and Joseph Beuys" in All in the Present Must Be Transformed: Matthew Barney and Joseph Beuys. exh. cat. Deutsche Guggenheim, dist. by D.A.P. 2006. ISBN 0-89207-355-1
  • Keller, Alexandra, and Frazer Ward. "Matthew Barney and the Paradox of the Neo-Avant-Garde Blockbuster", Cinema Journal, 45, No. 2, Winter 2006, pp. 3–16.
  • Wakefield, Neville. "Matthew Barney. Prayer Sheet with the Wound and the Nail" in Matthew Barney: Prayer Sheet with the Wound and the Nail. exh. cat. Schaulager, Basel, 2010. pp. 8–16. ISBN 978-3-7965-2707-4
  • Phillips, Adam. "Adam Phillips and Matthew Barney: A Conversation" in Matthew Barney: Prayer Sheet with the Wound and the Nail. exh. cat. Schaulager, Basel, 2010. pp. 18–42. ISBN 978-3-7965-2707-4
  • McClure, Michael Jay. "Queered Cinema: Film, Matter, and Matthew Barney." Discourse, Volume 32, Number 2, Spring 2010, pp. 150–169.

  External links



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