Barney Follows in the Wake of the Anti-Art Aesthetic of the Dadaists
My review of a one-day visit to the Guggenheim’s Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle, June 2003.
The Cremaster Cycle exhibition is a project of five films with some of the sets and props that have doubled as installations. A few unique mediums he works with are tapioca and Vaseline. A cremaster is the involuntary muscle that creates the rising and falling of the scrotum.
Jerry Saltz, art critic for the Village Voice, comments that he has loved everything Barney has done since a 1990 group show: “Suddenly, this 22-year-old appeared naked, in a videotape, climbing ropes, then lowering himself over a wedge of Vaseline and applying dollops of it to his body.” He continues: “Since then, Barney has been able to do no wrong by me, which is exactly the kind of unequivocal wet kiss from a critic I hate.”
Figurative sculptors spend most of their time focused on the best way to present the figure. For painters, there is a lot to learn from how sculptors often bring out the big abstract form of the figure. Seeing one perspective offered by the photo of the sculpture will serve our purpose. Our goal is to look for the abstract shape of the body. When working with a model, it is always good for painters to shift your position so that you can find the best view that accents the big form.
Expressing artistic vision, aside from all of the technical stuff, is really no more difficult than a child, left to his imagination, creating a little universe out of paper and crayon.
On the other side of the spectrum, da Vinci and Michelangelo went beyond the confines of being craftsmen to establishing themselves as artist-creators. What they did was simply do what the child does, but on an advanced level, thereby dramatically elevating the furthest reaches of art.
There is a newly-discovered version of the legend of Pandora’s Box. In this third version insanity, despair, and hatred had overrun the world and Pandora, driven by a sense of hope, opened the box by unlocking it with a key. Out from the box rose up all the glories of humanity and they spread throughout the world with undiminished splendor. Pandora discovered that the glories had never disappeared, but it was humankind that had lost the key to identifying the magnificence that lay before them.
The form of art and its function in human life are central to the debate between postmodern art and art. In the first two parts of this series I essayed 1) how postmodern art shocks your epistemological processes through its anti-art means, and 2) how it shocks your psychological processes by expressing disturbing content as the ends. Along these lines, I will go deeper in examining the theoretical basis of postmodern art and then, I would like to show you that an alternative to postmodern art exists, today, in the here and now.
… pathetically, only Hope remained inside. In the other version the box held all of humanity’s glories. When she opened the box progress, knowledge, and exaltation vanished into oblivion, forever lost to humanity.
Special Role of Art
Art, in all its forms, plays an exalted role as one of humanity’s glories. It also plays a profoundly personal role. Think, for instance, of the impact your favorite artwork has had on your life. Has it moved you to tears, to resolution, to moments of joy? Have you felt that an artwork was as close to you as a lover, a friend, or a child? Have you imagined what your life would be like without art? Picture your most beloved painting or recall your favorite song or regard your most treasured book and ask yourself what if it had never existed. Would that leave a gaping hole in your soul where once something precious had been? When Pandora opened the box, marvelous things rose up and vanished into space before her eyes. Without grasping the nature of this phenomenon, she unleashed Postmodernism on humanity.
In treating any disease, it is important to identify the problem at its root. It is also important to find classic cases of the problem to illustrate clearly the results of the disease. Some of the cases here are not pretty and might be offensive. It will take some courage to follow me through the following series of articles as we investigate the nature of Postmodern Art. Fortunately the cure for this type of disease exists but, as with all treatments, we will have to act to eradicate this plague from our world. Come with me as we enter into the aftermath of the Greek daughter’s blunder…
There are two versions of the legend of Pandora’s Box. One version tells us that the box contained all kinds of misery. When Pandora opened the box a plague dispersed and doomed humanity to suffer ruin, insanity, and despair. She hastily closed the box to stop the plague but, pathetically, only Hope remained inside. In the other version the box held all of humanity’s glories. When she opened the box progress, knowledge, and exaltation vanished into oblivion, forever lost to humanity.
Today, in the here and now, both versions of the legend of Pandora’s Box are tragically true.