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Selected Works

impact BOLUS, 2024

ceramic, synthetic polymer, aluminium, pewter, and lead
61 x 518.2 x 261.6 cm.; 24 x 204 x 103 in.
Photo: David Regen

Impact Object, 2024

colour pencil on paper, in high-density polyethylene frame
37.5 x 43.8 x 3.5 cm.; 14 3/4 x 17 1/4 x 1 3/8 in.
Photo: David Regen


2023 (trailer)
five-channel 4K colour video installation with immersive sound
dimensions variable, running time: 60 minutes
edition of 5, plus 1 AP

Field Panel: 94 Slant, 2023

oil and acrylic on aluminium
106.7 x 213.4 x 22.2 cm.; 42 x 84 x 8 3/4 in.
Photo: David Regen

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.
Photo: Tom Powel Imaging Inc

‘There are two modes of drawing for me, I guess. There’s the preliminary drawings, which are to do with mapping […] and I’ve always done that as a preliminary form of drawing. Then there are drawings that are made after. Even after the sculpture’s been made, often. It’s the last thing that happens. Drawing is both the beginning and the end.’

M. Barney and J. Farago, ‘An interview with Matthew Barney’, Even Magazine, Issue 6, Spring 2017

Elk Creek Burn, 2018

lodgepole pine; cast copper, brass, and lead; cast polycaprolactone
99.1 × 1084.6 × 266.7 cm.; 39 x 427 x 105 in.
Laurenz Foundation, Basel
Photo: © Matthew Barney studio

‘In these works, gunstocks and camo transform into the skins of trees and layers of identity that molt from sculpted bodies of cast bronze, copper, lead, and brass. There is an existential quality to these hybrid sculptures – trees cast as objects resembling bodies and gun shafts acting as hosts for the infliction of alloy. By pouring metal (the same alloy of copper, lead, and brass that makes bullets) through the trunks, Barney emulates ammunition moving explosively through a gun. At the same time, he shoots narratives through these host bodies, the trees becoming vessels for a sculptural articulation of violence against the living.’

J. Reiman, ‘Matthew Barney’, Sculpture Magazine, 26 April 2019

Diana on Shooting Bench, 2018

electroplated copper plate with cast copper stand
139.7 x 114.3 x 114.3 cm.; 55 × 45 × 45 in.
Laurenz Foundation, Basel
Photo © Matthew Barney studio

‘In Redoubt, the electrocoppered plates bridge exterior and interior, nature and science, physical and electrochemical. They also serve as a narrative thread, from the opening segment when the Electroplater makes her initial offering to the Engraver of a set of grounded plates to the conclusion of the film in which the completed plates sit enthroned on their easels–remaining untouched–a wolves’ curiosity, yet ultimately the only objects left undisturbed in the final collision of wild and domestic, cosmic and terrestrial. […] The themes pictured in the plates that are created in the film echo the plot moving from the broadest to the most intimate in scope as the Engraver draws ever closer to his subjects, both human and animal.’

E. Hodermarsky, ‘The Dynamo and the Virgin: the Electrocoppered Plates of Redoubt’, in Matthew Barney: Redoubt, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2019, pp. 139–140


2018 (trailer)
4K video with 7.1 sound and cast and electroplated copper cabinet, electroplated copper plate
film: 134 min 03 secs
cabinet: 91.4 x 152.4 x 40.6 cm.
36 x 60 x 16 in.
edition 8 of 10, plus 3 APs

Redoubt is rooted, unlike those expansive works, in a single place: the remote, rugged Sawtooth Mountains, the landscape of Mr. Barney’s childhood. It also speaks more directly to contemporary American themes: the place of the gun, the fate of the environment and the fantasies and paranoias of those who turn their back on constitutional government and American society.’

J. Farago, ‘A Lighter Matthew Barney Goes Back to School, and Back Home’, The New York Times, 21 March 2019

Dredge and Water Cast 1, 2016

cast bronze
139.7 × 177.8 × 162 cm.; 55 × 70 × 64 in.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Purchase with funds provided by the Maurice Marciano Family Foundation and Partial Gift by Artist
Photo: © Matthew Barney studio

‘I’m very opportunistic as an artist, and I jump at the opportunity to make a shift in my sculpture making. Casting sculpture has been part of my practice for a long time, but this notion of investment is different, burning the soul out of the form and investing it with metal.’

M. Barney, ‘These Weary Territories: A Conversation Between Matthew Barney and Okwui Enwezor’, Modern Painters, April 2014, p. 64–73

Water Cast 6, 2015

130.8 x 200.7 x 299.7 cm.; 51 1/2 x 79 x 118 in.
Collection Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris
Photo: © Fondation Louis Vuitton / Marc Domage

‘I’ve never done cast bronze sculpture before. I’ve never worked with foundries in this way. I’ve never worked with so-called “traditional processes” or materials. But the text on which River of Fundament is loosely based, Norman Mailer’s Ancient Evenings, opened the door to this range of materials and processes. It had to do with how the history of metal casting runs through the Ancient Egyptian era. Each one of these pieces addresses a different relationship to elemental metals, to alloys, or to hybridity. Hybridity has been really important to me in terms of my interest in plastics and synthetics.’

M. Barney, ‘The Drama of Proportion: A Conversation with Matthew Barney’, Sculpture Magazine, 1 May 2014

River of Fundament

2014 (trailer)
Film by Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler

‘The film was inspired by Norman Mailer’s 1983 novel, Ancient Evenings, set in ancient Egypt and invested in stages of reincarnation that come after death. The story would not seem to be eminently filmable. But River of Fundament is not exactly a film. It draws on a series of site-specific performances and elaborate happenings – live actions related to the project date back as far as 2007 – and all of them, however cinematically presented in the end, fit as sensibly within the traditions of theatre and opera. Shoots lasted for days, doubling as rituals or séances, with characters performing for an audience that would come to be part of the work.’

A. Battaglia, ‘River of Fundament’, The Paris Review, February 12, 2014

RIVER ROUGE: Tamarisk Root, 2011

ink on paper in painted steel frame
36.5 x 28.6 x 2.9 cm.; 14 3/8 x 11 1/4 x 1 1/8 in.
Photo: © Matthew Barney studio

‘Graphite, of course, the simple sharpened point of a pencil held in the hand: this is the material that the drawings are made of. But other materials appear, narrative threads connect and thicken the effect of the encounter. Take the RIVER ROUGE series: abstract hellish landscapes on red paper suggestive of putrid ocean horizons, heaving with oil spills, and smoldering clouds of sulfer dioxide made with brush and ink and the very sulfer and iron that constitute the very materiality of industrial culture. The connections are in the chemistry.’

T. N. Goodeve, ‘The Library for Non-Amnesiacs: A Possible Reading of Matthew Barney’s Drawings’, Brooklyn Rail, July – August 2013

DRAWING RESTRAINT 17: Der Tod und das Mädchen, 2010

graphite pencil on paper in high-density polyethylene frame
36.2 x 29.8 x 3.2 cm.; 14 1/4 x 11 3/4 x 1 1/4 in.
Laurenz Foundation, Basel
Photo: © Matthew Barney studio

‘Hans Baldung Grien’s Der Tod und das Mädchen (Death and the Maiden, c.1540) […] inspired Barney’s Drawing Restraint 17, which includes a film of a young woman digging a shallow grave in the fields fronting the nearby Goetheanum, then climbing Schaulager’s tall atrium wall, before falling to her death through a pentagonal wooden structure placed on the floor.’

Q. Latimer, ‘Matthew Barney, Frieze, Issue 133, 1 September 2010

De lama lâmina, 2004–2009

installation, colour video, with sound, 55 min. 22 sec.
Instituto Inhotim Collection, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Photo: William Gomes

‘Barney’s knack for biomechanical erotica is showcased in “De Lama Lamina”, an hourlong record of a huge performance art collaboration between Mr. Barney and the musician Arto Lindsay.

Set against the backdrop of Carnaval in Salvador, Brazil, the movie cuts between shots of musicians performing on an elevated stage; images of sweaty, often splendidly costumed onlookers; and gliding close-ups of a parade float — a monster-truck-wheeled, all-terrain vehicle topped with what appears to be a synthetic tree that’s still being built.

M. Zoller Seitz, ‘Biomechanical Erotica’, The New York Times, 6 July 2007

Guardian of the Veil: Imperial Trans Am, 2007

graphite and silver leaf on paper in polyethylene frame
27.3 x 32.4 x 2.5 cm.; 10 3/4 x 12 3/4 x 1 in.
Photo: © Matthew Barney studio

‘Drawings are fundamental to Barney’s process. His interest in the medium extends to the physical process of its making, as in his ongoing series Drawing Restraint. The extensive body of drawings that accompanies River of Fundament, while constituting an independent element of the project, intricately maps the project’s character and further explores its conceptual arc. [...] The drawings mirror the themes and iconography of River of Fundament and explore the depths of each act rather than present its narrative. Barney evokes his enigmatic, delicate imagery with the addition of nontraditional materials such as petroleum jelly and metal leaf, in addition to lapis dust and HDPE, a plastic derived from crude oil.’

A. Schneider and T. Roerig, ‘List of Works’, Matthew Barney: River of Fundament, exh. cat., Haus der Kunst, Munich; New York: Skira Rizzoli, 2014, p. 289

The Deportment of the Host, 2006

cast polycaprolactone thermoplastic and self-lubricating plastic
dimensions variable, approximately 264.2 x 617.2 x 76.2 cm.; 104 x 243 x 30 in.
MoMA, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Photo: © Matthew Barney studio

‘In this large sculpture, the white shell of a teahouse appears to have ruptured, revealing a space awash with the archaeological remnants of a tea ceremony. This enigmatic work, titled after the rules of Japanese tea ceremonies, alludes to Shinto tradition and tenets about the natural world and represents the symbiotic but troubled relationship between humans and nature.

The sculpture is related to Barney's 2004 film Drawing Restraint 9, a collaboration with the Icelandic musician Björk. […] To make this symbolic sculpture, Barney cast the teahouse in petroleum jelly. When it collapsed he cast the remains in thermoplastic, a durable industrial material. Thus the artist conceived a transformative process analogous to the harvesting and processing of whales and, particularly, to the extraction of oil from blubber. The film and sculpture both address the intersection of artistic, biological, and industrial transformations epitomized by imagery of the whale harvest.’

R. Roberts ed., The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 225

DRAWING RESTRAINT 9: Dynamic of Internal Relation, 2006

graphite, vaseline and iodine drawing on paper in self-lubricating plastic frame
34.3 x 29.2 x 3.8 cm.; 13 1/2 x 11 1/2 x 1 1/2 in.
Photo: © Matthew Barney studio

DRAWING RESTRAINT 9: Occidental Guest (bride), 2005

chromogenic print in self-lubricating plastic frame
134 × 108.9 × 3.2 cm.; 52 3/4 × 42 7/8 × 1 1/4 in.
edition 3 of 6, plus 1 AP
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Promised gift of the Fisher Landau Center for Art P.2010.297a-b
Photo: Tim Nighswander/Imaging 4 Art

‘Matthew Barney’s 2005 film-cum-performance-piece, Drawing Restraint 9 (DR9), portrays a budding romance between two individuals he terms the “Occidental Guests’, played by Barney and […] the singer Björk, aboard a Japanese whaling ship. In the film’s climactic scene, the Guests, dressed in imaginatively construed Japanese wedding dress, engage in a bloody orgy of violence and cannibalism that reveals they are both part whale. In addition to the costumes of seaweed, fur, and shell worn in this scene, DR9 prominently features Barney’s creative reinterpretations of traditional Japanese ritual and material culture, including tea ceremony, festivals, and pearl divers, while providing an opaque statement on the issue of Japanese whaling.”

N. Stalker, ‘Strange Nuptials: Matthew Barney’s Japan in Drawing Restraint 9’, positions: asia critique, volume 20, number 4, Fall 2012, pp. 1191-1192


graphite, watercolor, and petroleum jelly on paper, in rotomolded polycarbonate frames with nylon fiber, acrylic, and Vivak
92.71 x 157.5 x 104.14cm.; 36 1/2 x 62 x 41 in.
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of The Rachofsky Collection

Chrysler Imperial, 2002

cast concrete, cast petroleum jelly, cast thermoplastic, stainless steel, marble, and internally lubricated plastic; five units
four units approximately each: 61.0 x 152.4 x 228.6 cm.; 24 x 60 x 90 in.
one unit approximately 167.6 x 396.2 x 426.7 cm.; 66 x 156 x 168 in.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

‘Barney’s Chrysler Imperial (2002) encapsulates sequences from the final film of his five-part CREMASTER cycle (1994–2003), which summarizes the essential themes of this epic multimedia project. Each of the five main sculptural components, abstracted from cars competing in a demolition derby set in the lobby of the Chrysler Building around 1930, bears the insignia of a specific CREMASTER episode and embodies the conflicts explored in the film cycle. As an abridged version of the cycle, Chrysler Imperial exemplifies how Barney distills cinematic narrative into sculptural dimensions—using his signature Vaseline and cast plastics—to extrapolate in space what he explores in time. In the narrative sequence that generated Chrysler Imperial, Barney’s character, a Masonic candidate who eventually cheats on his initiation rites, is seen troweling cement over the fuel-tank valves on the rear chassis of five 1967 Chrysler Crown Imperials, transforming them into battering rams. The ’67 Imperials encircle a 1930 Chrysler Imperial New Yorker like hunters around an animal in a snare and proceed to pulverize their victim in what appears to be a ritual killing. Once crushed, the New Yorker is transformed into a set of chrome dentures, which are fitted in the mouth of the Masonic candidate after his teeth had been shattered on a railing as punishment for his trespasses. The sculpture that evolved from these filmic interludes is conceived in six major parts: five abstracted car forms representing the Imperials (and by extension the CREMASTER instalments) and one plastic rod representing the pulverized New Yorker’s transformation into disciplinary dentures.’

N. Spector, ‘The Cremaster Cycle’, Guggenheim Museum Website, 2003

Oonagh MacCumhail: The Case of the Entered Novitiate, 2002

internally lubricated plastic, cast urethane, cast thermoplastic, prosthetic plastic, stainless steel, acrylic, earth, and potatoes in polyethylene and acrylic vitrine
152 × 185 × 201 cm.; 60 × 73 × 79 in.
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
Photo: © Matthew Barney studio

‘The body implied by the dual operation of equipment and metabolism dramatically erases the distinction between what is inside and what is outside the body. Barney concentrates on the ways in which that threshold can be routinely crossed, making sculptures out of the plastics and metals that surgeons employ for implants (Teflon, titanium, stainless steel); in some instances he builds into the sculpture the actual instruments used to open the interior of the body to the outside (speculums, hemorrhoidal distractors, the clamps used to retract the chest in open-heart surgery). The combined action of sports training and medical modification equally erases the boundary between the categories of organic and laboratory for forcing bodily mutation, with each new performance adding a further variant to a growing cast of hybrid heroes.’

N. Bryson, ‘Matthew Barney’s Gonadotrophic Cavalcade’, Parkett, Issue 45, 1995, p. 31

Chrysler Suite, 2002

ten drawings: graphite and petroleum jelly on paper in acrylic frames
each: 25.4 x 30.5 x 2.5 cm.; 10 x 12 x 1 in.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

CREMASTER 3: Partition, 2002

three chromogenic prints in acrylic frames
107.95 × 228.6 × 3.49 cm.; 42 1/2 × 90 × 1 3/8 in.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Gift of Beth Swofford

‘CREMASTER 3 (2002) is set in New York City and narrates the construction of the Chrysler Building. A character itself, the building is host to inner, antagonistic forces at play for access to the process of (spiritual) transcendence. These factions find form in the struggle between Hiram Abiff or the Architect (played by Richard Serra), and the Entered Apprentice (played by Barney), who are both working on the building. They are reenacting the Masonic myth of Hiram Abiff, purported architect of Solomon's Temple, who possessed knowledge of the mysteries of the universe.’

N. Spector, ‘The Cremaster Cycle’, Guggenheim Museum Website, 2003

Cremaster 2: The Book of Mormon, 1999

chromogenic print in artist's acrylic frame
137.16 × 109.22 × 2.54 cm.; 54 × 43 × 1 in. (framed)
edition of 6
The Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven
Photo: © Matthew Barney studio

‘Barney depicts [Gary] Gilmore's murder of a Mormon gas-station attendant in both sculptural and dramatic forms. […] In the murder sequence, Gilmore shoots his victim in the back of the head. This act sets in motion the trial and verdict that will condemn him to death. Barney stages the judgment of Gilmore in the Mormon Tabernacle. Gilmore refuses to appeal his sentence and opts for execution by firing squad, in a literal interpretation of the Mormon belief that blood must be shed in order for a sinner to obtain salvation. His execution is staged as a prison rodeo in a cast-salt arena in the middle of the Bonneville Salt Flats.’

N. Spector, ‘The Cremaster Cycle’, Guggenheim Museum Website, 2003

CREMASTER 2: The Drones' Exposition, 1999

colour video, with sound, nylon, acrylic, steel, salt, epoxy, chrome plated engraved brass, leather, sterling silver, brass, lead, Hungarian sidesaddle, silk, carpet, carpet inlay, graphite and petroleum jelly on paper, laminated chromogenic prints
dimensions variable
Collection of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Franciso
Accessions Committee Fund purchase
Photo: Ben Blackwell

‘CREMASTER 2, 1999, the penultimate film in the series, is Barney’s most lavish performance to date. It signals a move away from the fanciful stridency of his early work towards a cool–if occasionally overblown–meditation on the possibilities for sculptural formality and narrative cinema, mixing the mythology of the American West with a semi-auto-biographical deliberation on the concept of the artist as epic hero.’

P. Staple, ‘Cremaster of Crime’, Art Monthly, Issue 234, 1 March 2000, p. 48


acrylic vitrine, silkscreened laser disc, polyester, acrylic, velvet, sterling silver, and colour video, with sound, 54 min., 30 sec.
vitrine: 95.9 x 121.3 x 90.8 cm.; 37 3/4 x 47 3/4 x 35 3/4 in.
edition of 10
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

‘The film, based around a five-act lyric opera, is a tragic love story featuring elaborate costumes, ornate set design and frequent imagery of biological reproduction. Its main characters include a queen played by the actress Ursula Andress and three roles – a diva, a giant and a magician – performed by Barney.

R. Martin, ‘Cremaster 5’, Tate Website, June 2015

Cremaster 1, 1995–1996

cast polyester, self-lubricating plastic, prosthetic plastic, patent vinyl, colour video, with sound
37 x 57 x 45.5 cm.; 14 5/8 x 22 1/2 x 17 7/8 in.
edition of 10
Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Photo: © Matthew Barney studio

‘CREMASTER 1 (1995) is a candy-coated musical revue performed on the blue Astroturf playing field of Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho-Matthew Barney's hometown. Two Goodyear Blimps float above the arena like the airships that often record and transmit live sporting events via television broadcast. Four air hostesses, uniformed in trimly fitted 1930s outfits, silently tend to each blimp.’ 

M. Barney, ‘Cremaster 1: Synopsis’, The Cremaster Cycle.

Cremaster 4: The Isle of Man, 1995

two 600cc sidehacks, wrestling mat, vinyl, silicone, tapioca, polyester, petroleum jelly, internally lubricated plastic, prosthetic plastic, florescent light, mirror, satin ribbon, Manx tartan
300 x 500 x 1000 cm.; 118 1/8 x 196 7/8 x 393 3/4 in.
Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Photo: © Matthew Barney studio

‘I think that from the beginning, the Cremaster series was trying to take on a cinematic language that I had not dealt with before. I wanted to see how this sculptural project could align itself with the cinematic form, and still come out as a sculptural project.’

M. Barney and H. U. Obrist, Hans Ulrich Obrist & Matthew Barney: The Conversation Series: Volume 27, Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Konig, 2016, p. 16

Cremaster 4, 1994

colour video, 42 min. 19
edition of 10
Collection of the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris (acq. 1994)

Cremaster 4 was formed through a strange symbiosis. The myths and shapes of the Isle of Man, where Barney’s work is sited, merged with Barney’s own highly developed set of rituals, actions and symbols to make the fictional world of the film. The central motifs of Barney’s mythology were inflected and given form by the Island and what he found there; and the Island was in turn absorbed unto the body of the work. Cremaster 4 is both a story (a drawing) superimposed by the artist on the island, and a narrative form drawn out of it.’

J. Lingwood, Matthew Barney: Cremaster 4,, Foundation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris; Paris / London / New York: Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain / Artangel / Barbara Gladstone Gallery, 1995, n.p.

Cremaster Cycle, 1994–2002


‘Begun in 1994 and fueled by the metaphor of the cremaster muscle (the thin, smooth muscle that raises or lowers the testicles relative to temperature and fear) and the primordial moment in embryonic development which precedes sexual differentiation, the five-part, seven-hour Cremaster Cycle encompasses the figures and themes of Barney’s earlier work and more, but with ambition, extravagance, and decadence on an unprecedented scale: cheerleaders dance-pulsating, anal Jim Otto ‘0’s in a brightly lit football stadium, a hardcore singer encrusted with live bees shouts into a telephone, Barney decked out as Gary Gilmore rides a wild bull in a stadium made of salt, haunted Chrysler Imperials engage in a funereal demolition derby in the Chrysler Building.’

D. Baird, ‘Matthew Barney: The Cremaster Cycle’, The Brooklyn Rail, April – May 2003


intermedia room installation, including three video monitors, six high-abuse fluorescent lighting fixtures, enamel on steel, internally lubricated plastic
274.3 x 670.5 x 304.8 cm.; 108 x 264 x 120 in.
edition 2 of 3
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Purchase with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee 93.33
Photo: Ron Amstutz

‘In 1993, Barney dropped the superhero persona of his own volition and entered an Arcadian realm. In the video Drawing Restraint 7, Barney introduced an entirely new mythology to his work. The premise of the video is deceptively, albeit weirdly, simple. Two satyrs occupy the back of a limousine which enters Manhattan across every bridge and through every tunnel. As they are being driven, the satyrs engage in a wrestling competition which results in the loser having his Achilles’ tendon flayed by the winner. As the wrestling bout proceeds, the submissive satyr is forced to make a series of drawings with his horns on the transparent sun roof of the limousine. Meanwhile, the increasingly agitated chauffeur, played by Barney, tries to achieve the “final formation of the perfectly hermetic circle”.’

R. Flood, ‘Notes on Digestion and Film’, in Matthew Barney, pace car for the hubris pill, exh. cat., Rotterdam: Museum Boymans-van-Beuningen, 1995, pp. 31–32

Transexualis (Incline), 1991

walk-in cooler, formed and cast petroleum-jelly decline bench, human chorionic gonadotropin, speculum, videos
365.8 x 426.7 x 259.1 cm.; 144 x 168 x 102 in.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco
Accessions Committee Fund purchase: gift of Collectors' Forum, Byron R. Meyer, Norah and Norman Stone, and Mr. and Mrs. Brooks Walker, Jr.
Photo: Ben Blackwell

‘Matthew Barney identifies the physicality of sculpture, the gallery space itself, and the dynamic focus of television as art materials of similar metaphysical and narrative potential. His sense of material and media is fluid and is invested with intentional ambiguities. He casts objects such as barbells and hand-weights in wax or sucrose and coats them with petroleum jelly. He exploits the phenomenon of TV transmission, distribution, and reception of sports and stages rigorous actions for video using his own body.’

R. R. Riley, ‘The Expense of Energy, Matthew Barney: New Work,, San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1991, n.p.

REPRESSIA (Incline), 1991

wrestling mat, pyrex, cast petroleum-wax, Olympic curl bar, cotton socks, sternal retractor, skeet, saltwater pearl, petroleum jelly, videos
426.7 x 548.6 x 381 cm.; 168 x 216 x 150 in.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco
Gift of Norah and Norman Stone in honor of John Caldwell, Curator of Painting and Sculpture (1989-93)
Photo: Katherine Du Tiel

‘In the combination of Matthew Barney’s ‘facilities’ Transexualis and REPRESSIA and video related to each, unexpected new terrain in sculpture, performance, and video art is encountered. The material, source mythologies, and television that comprise Barney’s multiplex installation create parallel contexts for sexual behavior, athletic prowess, and ambition in art.’

R. R. Riley, ‘The Expense of Energy’, Matthew Barney: New Work,, San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1991, n.p.

unit BOLUS, 1988–1991

cast petroleum jelly, stainless steel, and electronic freezing device
72.4 × 45.7 × 25.4 cm.; 28 1/2 × 18 × 10 in.
edition of 5
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago
Gift of Cooperfund, Inc., 1993.14.a-e
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

‘Barney’s sculptural objects are so disturbing because they challenge the ideal of the well-defined, massive male body. Again and again his objects are objects that stem from stereotypically male spaces. […] Barney’s attributes, however, are not hard as steel but soft as butter. They are made of materials like frozen petroleum jelly, which prevents his objects from embodying the promise of a massive, hard body. They seem to fall apart, to melt, to loosen their boundaries. They rather evoke situations in which it is not at all clear what is inside and what is outside the body.’

E. van Alphen, Art in Mind: How Contemporary Images Shape Thought, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005, p. 129


gelatin silver print and prosthetic plastic
38.6 × 28.9 × 4.4 cm.; 15 1/4 × 11 3/8 × 1 3/4 in.
edition of 10
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago
Gerald S. Elliott Collection, 1995.28
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

‘In these early works you appear in drag a few times: quite glamorous poses, in high heels. Exceeding boundaries of gender, taking on a character or a personage, seemed to be another kind of training. Bodies’ limitations, bodies’ excesses, bodies’ abilities to transform.’

J. Farago, ‘An interview with Matthew Barney’, Even Magazine, Issue 6, Spring 2017


documentation still, video (black and white, silent). 5:01 min
Jointly owned by Laurenz Foundation, Schaulager, Basel; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Photo: © Matthew Barney studio

‘In the DRAWING RESTRAINT series, Barney devised a number of situations which did for drawing what the wearing of ankle weights does for jogging: increased its strenuousness. These “facilities to defeat the facility of drawing”, as Barney called them, necessitated that the artist pounce on a trampoline, climb ramps while straining at the end of tethers, and push blocking sleds (used to developed line skills in football training) simply in order to draw. “I was interested in hypertrophy”, Barney has said. “How a form can grow productively under a self-imposed resistance, so I wore a restraining device to make drawings. They were linked to my interest in how a muscle can grow under the resistance of a weight.”’

K. Seward, ‘Matthew Barney and Beyond’, Parkett, Issue 45, 1995, p. 58

All works: © Matthew Barney