Matthew Barney at ARC

Matthew Barney at ARC

Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris

October 7, 2002

Matthew Barney
The Cremaster Cycle

ARC/Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
11, avenue du Président Wilson
75116 Paris
tel: 33 1 53 67 40 50
fax: 33 1 47 23 35 98

image: Matthew Barney, CREMASTER 3,

Production photograph, 2002

photo: Chris Winget, Courtesy Barbara Gladstone

For the first time in France, Matthew Barney presents the Cremaster cycle in its entirety, in an unique installation that combines the languages of cinema and sculpture.

Matthew Barney (born in 1967) launched the cycle in 1994, with the film Cremaster 4 which was followed by Cremasters 1, 5, and 2. This particularly ambitious project, which the artist has worked on exclusively for eight years, concluded this year with Cremaster 3.

From his earliest artistic performances, the American artist, and former athlete, has tested the limits of his own body. Here he pursues this project by referencing different biological mechanisms, such as the ascending and descending movements controlled by the cremaster muscle*, as well as the sexual indeterminacy of the embryo during the six weeks after conception, prior to the formation of reproductive organs. This lack of differentiation opens up a realm of potential that the artist uses as a leitmotif throughout his artistic process.

In the spirit of the romantic idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk (the total work of art), Matthew Barney’s practice encompasses all media, without any hierarchy. Drawings, photographs and sculptures accompany the films as autonomous material forms. In this way, a multi-dimensional body of work is elaborated through both space and time.

From the beginning, Matthew Barney has shown a preference for malleable materials-petroleum jelly, wax, plastic resin-in a constant oscillation between form and “informe.” This is revealed in the work that opens the exhibition, Partition, a bar covered in frozen petroleum jelly, a form of which appears in Cremaster 3.

Eschewing linear narration and against univocal readings, Matthew Barney develops a multi-referential iconography in his films. Each episode takes place in a specific locale-the Isle of Man, the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, the city of Budapest. Architecture can also be likened to a character in itself, as in the case with Bronco Stadium or the Chrysler Building.

For each Cremaster installment, identified by its own emblem and color, the artist has been inspired by specific epochs and genres. Thus, in his vision Greek mythology mingles with professional athletics, Hollywood cinema with magic, psychoanalysis with “hard-core” music.

For his exhibition at ARC in Paris, Matthew Barney has conceived an original presentation that exploits the organic fluidity and circularity of the architecture. From the Astroturf-covered floor, the padded passageways, and the intense and uniform lighting throughout, his choices work together to provide a comprehensive and coherent character to the exhibition, thus acting as an extension of the work therein.

*The cremaster muscle (named for its discoverer) regulates the ascending and descending movement of the testicles in reaction to external stimuli, such as a change in temperature, or sensations such as fear.

This exhibition is organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York, in collaboration with the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Ludwig Museum in Cologne.


Nancy Spector

Guggenheim Museum, New York

Paris Curatorial Team:

Laurence Bossé and Julia Garimorth

Press: Elsa Guigo & Maud Halioua

Tel: 33 1 53 67 40 50 / Fax: 33 1 47 23 35 98

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Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris
October 7, 2002

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