“I was in the mood to make a . . . reflection of my confusion with the current political landscape. The dualisms inherent in the Candomblé religion helped me organize this.”—Mathew Barney
Matthew Barney’s billboard design, the final installment in the Walker Art Center’s Billboard Project and inspired by his most recent work in Brazil, is a tantalizing suggestion of a whole new realm of visuals and meanings in gestation for this artist best known for his five-part Cremaster cycle. Startlingly different, but clearly identifiable as Matthew Barney’s work, the billboard will be on view November 15–January 15 at Hennepin Avenue and 12th Street in downtown Minneapolis.
Barney’s most recent, post-Cremaster project took place at this year’s Carnaval Salvador Bahia, where he collaborated with American-Brazilian musician Arto Lindsay to create De Lama Lâmina (From Mud, a Blade), a festival float/performance stage/carnival procession that makes multiple cross-references to Candomblé (an indigenous Brazilian religion blending the faith of African slaves with characteristics of Catholicism), environmental destruction, and polymorphous, malleable sexual identity. Barney’s Walker billboard is a preview of this hybrid of mythology and iconography, now being developed into a film. A female figure is dressed in abada, a traditional costume for rituals and festival processions and here cut-patterned like the bark of a harvested tree. The flowers blossoming from her mouth turn her body into a reproductive tree spirit. Occupying the luminous negative space—the “field”—and placed as a counterpoint to the woman, the logo combines the symbols of two important Candomblé gods—Ogun, the god of war, and Ossaîm, the god of the forest and herbal healing—and embodies at once creation and destruction, coexistence and conflict. But, as is always the case with Barney’s work, this simple composition and the simpler description cannot but fail to capture what will unfold.
Barney’s Cremaster cycle—arguably the most ambitious artwork in recent memory—took the artist on a decade-long journey across the western world, from Idaho and Utah to New York City, the Isle of Man, and Budapest, Hungary. The often bewildering, nearly unimaginable epic is simultaneously hermetic and open-ended, made out of a melange of sources—classical mythology and arcane allegory, medical experiments, vernacular fables, and popular myths. The Walker presented the exhibition Matthew Barney Cremaster 2: The Drones’ Exposition in 1999 and is the only museum in the United States to have all five films of the cycle in its collection.
The Billboard Project is part of Walker without Walls, a year of programming spanning the Twin Cities made possible by generous support from Target. By utilizing public and urban spaces, Walker without Walls programs provide direct access to art and culture.
Walker information/box office: 612.375.7622.