© The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images
Matthew Barney

© The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

Matthew Barney

Born in 1967, in New York 

Lives and works in New York (United States)

One of the most important figures in contemporary art, Matthew Barney became known to a wide public through his cycle of five films, Cremaster, in which he appears to metamorphose into different animal and human forms within a striking, dreamlike, baroque world. His vast, monumental work questions issues of gender, cyborgs and mutant humanity.

After studying medicine and graduating from Yale University in 1991, the artist, who is also an accomplished athlete and high-level sportsman, made his debut in the art world thanks to support from gallery owner Barbara Gladstone. Barney’s provocative work led to his rapid success. His early pieces took the form of body art in which he submitted his body to physical endurance exercises, demonstrating his physical control and dominance over his body.

In 1994 Barney began to work with installation, drawing, photography, performance, film and video, using as many materials as possible including bronze, film, plastic, resin and wax. With his cycle of five films, Cremaster (1994-2002), which total seven hours of continuous projection (shown in 2002 in France at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris) he reinstated film’s role in contemporary art with an incredible piece featuring hermaphrodite, hybrid and mutant beings.
Internationally renowned, Barney’s unusual work conveys a unique vision of a mind that encompasses world and temporalities in a ferment of cerebral, formal ideas that are matched by the highly innovative connections he establishes. To him, the porosity between different worlds – animal, human, organic, mineral – is evident. Often provocative, his pieces blend universal myths and contemporary data, allowing his work to decipher the world of today and tomorrow. For the past 15 years, Barney has used new materials and procedures – Vaseline, polyurethane, plastic, metal – to generate a body of unprecedented sculptures, including Water Cast 6, an original piece that marks a new stage in his creative process and fabrication methods.

Selected Bibliography

Marcopoulos, Ari, Ryle, Matthew D. Fumes : Ari Marcopoulos & Matthew Barney Studio. New York : Karma, 2015.

Enwezor, Okwui, Als, Hilton, Diederichsen, Diedrich...[et al]. Matthew Barney : river of fundament [Munich, Hausder Kunst, March 16 - August 17, 2014 ; MONA, Tasmania, November 22, 2014 - April 27, 2015 ; MOCA, Los Angeles, September 13, 2015 - January 18, 2016]. New York : Skira Rizzoli ; Munich : Haus der Kunst, 2014.

Chernick, Alison. Matthew Barney : No Restraint. Paris : Potemkine, 2006.

Pagé, Suzanne, Spector, Nancy, Wakefield, Neville. Matthew Barney: The CREMASTER Cycle [exposition, Cologne, Museum Ludwig, June 6 - September 1, 2002 ; Paris, Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, October 10, 2002 - January 5, 2003 ; New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, February 14 - May 11, 2003]. Paris : Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, 2002.

***   All materials available at the Documentation Centre of the Fondation   ***

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