The mesmeric power of Matthew Barney’s parallel film universe lies in its inevitable acceptance of an agenda that is ultimately human in its aspirations. It is never so alien as to shut the viewer out, nor so familiar as to make the viewer comfortable. He provides just enough of what we know to initiate a handshake, and more than enough of what we don’t to suggest that a new millennium demands a new mythology. Begun in 1994, the Cremaster cycle consists of five films, a formidable body of related sculpture, and hundreds of photographs and drawings. In 2003, the New York Times wrote: “Hands down, he is, at just shy of 36, the most compellingly, richly imaginative artist to emerge in years. Cremaster . . . gives us an inspired benchmark of ambition, scope, and forthright provocation for art in the new century.”
The Walker’s relationship with Barney goes back to 1993, when his work first entered the collection. The Walker’s 1999 exhibition Cremaster 2: The Drones’ Exposition marked the first time he combined all facets of the cycle (film, sculpture, photography, drawing) into one exhibition; that installation is now jointly owned by the Walker and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The Walker is also the only museum in the United States to have collected all of the Cremaster films and a sculpture related to each. Visit the Friedman Gallery to see objects from Cremaster 2 in the exhibition Quartet: Barney, Gober, Levine, Walker. A recording of the 2003 Regis Dialogue between the artist and former chief curator Richard Flood will be available in the Walker Channel archives (channel.walkerart.org).
All films directed by Matthew Barney. Screening prints courtesy Barbara Gladstone Gallery.