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Matthew Barney in full regalia as one of his characters in the Cremaster series.
|Born||March 25, 1967 (1967-03-25) |
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.
The film series The Cremaster Cycle is Barney's best-known work. The films have included very high budgets by experimental art film standards, and have featured such varied celebrities as Norman Mailer, Ursula Andress, and Richard Serra.
In interviews, Barney has mentioned the phenomenon of hypertrophy as a metaphorical inspiration for much of his work; several of his performance pieces have involved Barney restrained or somehow encumbered while attempting to execute a drawing.
A gallery show accompanying the Drawing Restraint 9 project appeared at Gladstone Gallery in New York, April 7-May 13, 2006, featuring thermoplastic sculptures associated with the film and the remains of a private project performed at the gallery April 2, 2006, titled Drawing Restraint 13: The Instrument of Surrender, for which Barney emerged from a crate dressed as General Douglas MacArthur, walked across a platform, and fell into a vat of petroleum jelly. Barney reused his motif of dressing as MacArthur in a show later that year (June 23 through September 17, 2006) at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. That performance involved Barney scaling to the roof of the museum in order to render a drawing on the ceiling surface.
 Critical Opinions
Barney has received substantial praise for his idiosyncratic work. In a 2003 article in Time, Richard Lacayo stated that, "It's routine for [Barney] to be called the best artist of his generation."  Famed art critic Arthur C. Danto has praised the majority of Barney's work, noting the importance of Barney's use of sign systems such as Mason mythology.
Others have harshly criticized Barney. Jed Perl of The New Republic has described Barney's work as "phony-baloney mythopoetic movies, accompanied by dumpster loads of junk from some godforsaken gymnasium of the imagination." Calling his work a "snooze", Peter Schjeldahl of The New Yorker criticized Barney as being, "a star for attaining stardom." Another critic in the same magazine characterized elements in Drawing Restraint 9 as, "an unabashed display of Oriental kitsch that makes Memoirs of a Geisha look like an ethnographic documentary."