Monday, April 16, 2007
The Cream Master Barney
Matthew Barney (born March 25, 1967 in San Francisco, California) is a contemporary artist who works with film, video, installations, sculpture, photography, drawing and performance art. Barney has described himself as being primarily a sculptor. New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman called Barney "the most important American artist of his generation." Barney's work has been described as being part of "the legacy of the performance art of the 1960s and 1970s."
Barney spent his youth partially in Idaho, where he played football in Capital High School, and partially in New York City with his mother, who introduced him to art and museums. This intermingling of sports and art would inspire his later work as an artist. Barney entered Yale University planning on studying medicine, but became enamored with art and fashion. He received a B.A. from Yale in 1989. He also worked briefly as a model for Click Modeling Agency, and was in a J. Crew ad.
Barney has had strong positive and negative receptions for his work. Calling his work a "snooze," a film critic for the New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl, criticizes Barney as being "a star for attaining stardom.Another critic in the same magazine characterizes elements in Drawing Restraint 9 as "an unabashed display of Oriental kitsch that makes Memoirs of a Geisha look like an ethnographic documentary."Jed Perl has described Barney's work as "phony-baloney mythopoetic movies, accompanied by Dumpster loads of junk from some godforsaken gymnasium of the imagination".
Others have defended his work, comparing Barney to other famous performance artists including Chris Burden and Vito Acconci, and as being simultaneously a critique and celebration of commercialism and blockbuster filmmaking. Regarding the Cremaster series' enigmatic nature, Alexandra Keller and Frazer Ward write:
“ "Rather than reading Cremaster, we are encouraged to consume it as high-end eye candy, whose symbolic system is available to us but hardly necessary to our pleasure: meaning, that is, is no longer a necessary component to art production or reception. Left to its own devices-and it is all devices-Cremaster places us in a framework of mutually assured consumption, consuming us as we consume it." ”
Famed art critic Arthur C. Danto has praised the majority of Barney's work, noting the importance Barney's use of of sign systems such as Mason mythology.
Others have asserted Barney's work are contemporary expressions of surrealism. "Completely arcane, hermetic and solipsistic, they nevertheless periodically provide some of the most enigamatically beautiful experimental film imagery you'll ever see," writes the critic Chris Chang.
"Is Barney's work a new beginning for a new century?," asks Richard Lacayo, writing in Time. "It feels more like a very energetic longing for a beginning, in which all kinds of imagery have been put to the service of one man's intricate fantasy of return to the womb. Something lovely and exasperating is forever in formation there. Will he ever give birth?"