2003 Exhibitions

Cremaster Cycle
August 22-28, 2003

Cremaster photos © Matthew Barney, courtesy Barbara Gladstone.

Cremaster photos © Matthew Barney, courtesy Barbara Gladstone.

For the first time in Indiana, Matthew Barney presents the Cremaster cycle in its entirety.

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 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 mythology mingles with professional athletics, Hollywood cinema with magic, psychoanalysis with “hard-core” music.

Information courtesy of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Ludwig Museum in Cologne.