Matthew Barney (b. 1967) is known for his innovative and broad-ranging practice encompassing film, performance, sculpture, photography and drawing. Celebrated for his feature-length cinematic work, including the seminal Cremaster Cycle (1994–2002), River of Fundament (2014) and Redoubt (2019), the artist creates fantastical universes which challenge the limits and politics of gender, sexuality and codified beliefs.
Describing himself primarily as a sculptor, Barney works with materials stretching from petroleum jelly to bronze, creating objects and installations that are intrinsically linked to his cinematic world. Barney’s drawings mark both the beginning and end of his filmic projects, existing as preparatory sketches and as reflective recollections of internal states. The closely interrelated elements of his oeuvre form the parts of a mythological Gesamtkunstwerk, addressing questions of life and death, the natural world and industrial transformation, the cosmic and terrestrial.
“Over the last twenty-seven years Matthew Barney has produced some of the most accomplished, demanding, and distinctive bodies of work in contemporary art. A leading artist of his generation, he is a visionary figure whose complex and radical forms have generated an entirely new artistic vocabulary that is as unique as it is protean. At the root of his provocative art is an examination of physical and biological systems as a portal to the psychic, symbolic, mythological, occult, and archetypal dimensions of human experience and consciousness.”
O. Enwezor, “Portals and Processions: Matthew Barney’s River of Fundament”, in Matthew Barney: River of Fundament, exh. cat., Haus der Kunst, Munich; New York: Skira Rizzoli, 2014, p. 232.
Image: Orange Lupine, 2021, graphite and gouache on paper in high-density polyethylene frame, 33 x 38.1 x 3.2 cm.; 13 x 15 x 1 1/4 in.