PRINT December 1995

Bruce Hainley


I like fresh lobster. I like a lanai. I like shopping, perfume, cut flowers, Richart chocolates, and staying at home. I like effeminate sinuous creatures. The “eyegays” of FLORINE STETTHEIMER display the plain pleasure of answering questions with nothing other than unembarrassed directness. After her champagne-and-strawberry theory of painting, one understands finally how to create a philosophy by letting what excites you—fashion, serendipity, the beautiful people—become the only thing that matters.


Two more things I like: boys and art. Putting them together should be heaven, but, yawn, when MATTHEW BARNEY does it, I keep falling asleep. This boy’s tedium shouldn’t be dignified by invoking the name of Joseph Beuys. Cremaster 4 might have reached the hinterlands of transgression—whether premeditated transgression can transgress is another matter—had it been shown not at the Public Theater’s sanctioned space of alterity but at the offices of the Isle of Man Travel Bureau, whose talentless aerial cameraman seems to have shot most of the footage. Cremaster 4’s overproduced artiness makes me yearn for Hollywood slickness or for the deft Sadie Benning to give Barney lessons in self-reliance and how much can be done with so little.

Barney was once a model and is still hubba-hubba cute. Certainly, his cuteness is more interesting than anything he’s done yet. His work concerns yet disavows the meaning of the beautiful male in America, which, like Barney, America can’t deal with at all. No one has considered that the brouhaha over Steven Meisel’s canny CK ads started because of the passivity of those skinny boys. Like everyone else, Barney fatuously agrees that men must do, not just be looked at. He hoists himself through all kinds of regimes or disfigures himself with horns, pointy ears, goat lips, and natty outfits or races his motor, and everybody applauds, thinking he is providing some adroit commentary on gender and anomie through the lens of a suspect masculinity. (Look to Todd Haynes’ stunning Safe to see how such commentary—and much more—can be done.) What many take to be marginalia—makeup and costumes—points to the only interesting things about Barney: his nervous disingenuousness, his evasion techniques.

Bruce Hainley is a frequent contributor to Artforum.