Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle
March 17, 2003 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle Multimedia artist Matthew Barney, 36, is almost universally fawned over by critics and is hailed as the most important artist to come along in years. In a stunning installation at NYC's Guggenheim Museum, he's made the museum into a bit player in his massive gesamtkunstwerk. And now this gorgeous website ups the ante on Flash-based sites. In addition to all this, the soundtracks from his Cremaster series by Jonathan Bepler are breaking new ground in modern composition. Oh, yeah, Matthew Barney is the dad of Bjork's child. Where does it end?
posted by ubueditor (27 comments total)
Whoops! The Jonathan Bepler soundtracks are here.
posted by ubueditor at 11:57 AM on March 17, 2003

sweet! i'm a big huge matthew barney fan.

thanks for all the links.

posted by fishfucker at 12:00 PM on March 17, 2003

Well, the New Yorker damned the Guggenheim retrospective with faint praise ("He may not be a great artist, but he's a great case", or words to that effect). So the Barney backlash may be beginning.... And you left out the part about his high school football career, and how he worked as a model to get through art school. The guy's multiply blessed, but will his art be considered important in 20 years? Again, the New Yorker (I know, not the ultimate barometer of art world reputation, but still important in helping to set taste) recently called his work a "dead end". Buy hey, every note of Vespertine is about Bjork falling in love with him, and that's quite a monument in itself. That said, thanks for the links--I am glad to see them here.
posted by jokeefe at 12:05 PM on March 17, 2003

Ah, yes. Matthew Barney was a J.Crew catalogue model while getting his MFA in Sculpture at Yale!
posted by ubueditor at 12:10 PM on March 17, 2003

Matthew Barney, 36, is almost universally fawned over by critics ...his high school football career, and how he worked as a model to get through art school..Bjork falling in love with him

Dosen't it make you wanna beat the shit out of him?
posted by jonmc at 12:18 PM on March 17, 2003

The Economist loves him only slightly less than Björk does.
posted by mookieproof at 12:32 PM on March 17, 2003

I fell asleep during Cremaster 2: Electric Bugaloo.
posted by MrBaliHai at 12:42 PM on March 17, 2003

I saw the show last week and was quite impressed. The Guggenheim had turned into a Barney theme park, weird and icky and fun. I don't suppose I'm qualified to say if he's a major artist or a major case, but I had a very good time. Definitely recommended.

I'll also admit that the real highlight for me was Pierre Huyghe's dazzling L'Expédition Scintillante, Act II: Untitled (light show).
posted by muckster at 12:43 PM on March 17, 2003

Gawker had this funny quote today:

“Overheard at the Matthew Barney exhibit: (when a guy at a suddenly partially visible urinal complained that the mens room door was being propped open by the line) ‘We just spent 45 minutes in someone's ovaries. I'm sure no one cares about seeing you take a piss.’”
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:00 PM on March 17, 2003

I just wish I could find any of the Cremaster pieces on dvd ... no luck so far.
posted by ScottUltra at 1:24 PM on March 17, 2003

far as i understand it, they're on laser(disc), and all super-limited edition -- mostly distributed in specially manufactured sculptures to art collectors.

however, i agree it would be cool if they were put out on DVD for those folks who can't make it to anywhere that they are exhibiting.
posted by fishfucker at 1:34 PM on March 17, 2003

Oh, I get it now. There was the tractor in the pond, and the Cremaster Cycle up on shore.
posted by soyjoy at 1:36 PM on March 17, 2003

I followed the "gorgeous website" link, and I have to confess I don't get it. I'll follow some of the other links later, but in the mean time, can anybody who is down with this guy give me some pointers on how I should approach this guy's work. I can't seem to find an in to it anywhere.
posted by willnot at 1:38 PM on March 17, 2003

i just saw cremaster 3.... very interesting - although the endless charcoal drawing sequence was a little tedious -

"a movie" by bruce conner is still head and shoulders above any of barney's work.... and cost nothing rather than tens or hundreds of thousands.
posted by specialk420 at 1:39 PM on March 17, 2003

Still, Barney's art presents a serious critical problem for me, one that borders on embarrassment, and may disqualify me from writing on it at all. It began almost the instant I set eyes on his work in a 1990 group show at the now defunct Althea Viafora Gallery, when I experienced what can only be called an epiphany. The art world was in crisis; everything was in flux. Suddenly, this 22-year-old appeared naked, in a videotape, climbing ropes, then lowering himself over a wedge of Vaseline and applying dollops of it to his body. Spellbound and flabbergasted, I thought, "Whoever or whatever this is, I need to see more of it—much more."

He's the Damien Hirst of vaseline.
posted by mecran01 at 1:49 PM on March 17, 2003

who is down with this guy give me some pointers on how I should approach this guy's work.

he's big in on flow of consciousness associations and striking visual juxtapositions.

i haven't particularly read a lot of criticism on his work, so i wouldn't really be able to sketch out a way of looking at it in an academic context. anyhow, i personally find it very fun work.

'course, nothing says you have to like it.
posted by fishfucker at 2:02 PM on March 17, 2003

Bruce Conner is amazing, specialk420 -- I would love to have "Mongoloid", "A Movie", and some of his other work on DVD.
posted by Vidiot at 2:06 PM on March 17, 2003

I love Cremasters 1 and 3, but I thought the Guggenheim show was terrible. There seemed to be a limited number of photographs (I don't need to see the same exact still in color and then in black and white elsewhere in the museum); the place just looks shabby (someone should have scotchguarded the carpets symbolizing each movie if you're gonna have it in NYC in the winter); and the self-lubricating (!) sculptures don't excite me. Barney is a master of branding/merchandising -- this kid in the giftshop was fawning over the patches (one for each film) when he had already purchased the entire set.

Mat Gleason isn't too impressed with Barney...
posted by armacy at 2:14 PM on March 17, 2003

Rumor has it that some of Matthew Barney's videos were recently bootlegged and appeared at Kim's Video in NYC, a repository of downtown NYC hipster culture. They were quickly swept off the shelves after legal action was threatened by Barney's gallery (and financial backers) Barbara Gladstone.
posted by ubueditor at 2:20 PM on March 17, 2003

Mat Gleason isn't too impressed with Barney...

Has he even seen any of Barney's work? It wasn't entirely clear from that commentary. In fact, Gleason actually writes: "Forget the aesthetics of Cremaster and consider the ramifications." He seems more concerned with politics than with aesthetics. Which is fine: there's certainly a place for politics. But reading Gleason's holier-than-Koons diatribe did not affect my opinion on whether I should take time to see Barney's work one way or the other.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:28 PM on March 17, 2003

I agree with armacy. I was at the Guggenheim last week too and was not only let-down, but I left with an icky empty feeling. Not an icky empty feeling in that the work disturbed or moved me, but just that my time had been wasted and that I felt absolutely no connection to the stuff going on around me. I think it was all very impressive in its scope, but I felt very uninformed and unintrigued.
posted by adrober at 3:38 PM on March 17, 2003

The Cremaster Cycle will be showing at Film Forum in NYC, by the way: April 25-May 7. " ... melds genres as diverse as the Busby Berkeley musical, the gothic Western, and operatic spectacle." What? No Velvet Elvis?
posted by hairyeyeball at 3:46 PM on March 17, 2003

Reminds me of Prospero's Books
posted by cinderful at 5:51 PM on March 17, 2003

while my verdict's still out on barney as a whole, I really fail to see how this site "ups the ante" in any way, unless it's from a dime to a quarter...

kudos to his makeup artist though. the imagery in the trailer is damn nice too
posted by badzen at 5:52 PM on March 17, 2003

Reminds me of Prospero's Books

I'd like to take this moment to point out that my books are not nearly as pretentious and full of gratuitous nudity as Greenaway makes them out to be.
posted by Prospero at 5:59 PM on March 17, 2003 [1 favorite]

I have to second the "gorgeous website" comment, and just add that I think it's excellently organized, too--great use of visual elements as aids to navigation.

I'd love to see the Guggenheim exhibit--enough that I'm seriously considering stopping over in Manhattan at the end of May on my way home from Halifax... it would be worth it to see the whole cycle at once. From what I've seen of Barney's work, I suspect I might find it either fradulent or brilliant, and I love work that makes me choose one or the other, if that makes sense: I appreciate its ambitions and its grandiosity, but whether it works as art (for me) is something I'll reserve judgement on.
posted by jokeefe at 6:45 PM on March 17, 2003

Mat Gleason isn't too impressed with Barney...

I recently stumbled upon a similar dismissal of Mariko Mori (who Gleason pans as 'inane' in that article -- the linked article tacks on the charge of exploiting 'Western appetite for neatly-packaged Japanese exoticism'). Mori was born into one of the world's wealthiest families, modelled in Japan, studied art in London and New York, and quickly became an art scene darling.

I got a lot of pleasure out of re-reading Gleason's piece using Comic Book Guy voice. Thanks, armacy.
posted by eddydamascene at 7:09 PM on March 17, 2003

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