new-york

“Matthew Barney: The CREMASTER Cycle”

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

Other ambitious young artists might have been content go to the studio, tack up a poster of Harry Houdini, a postcard of Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, and the famous image of Richard Serra flinging molten lead like Vulcan in his forge, and sublimate. But not Matthew Barney. For better and worse, Barney had to make a multimedia spectacle of himself, his youthful ambitions, infatuations, and oedipal urges, with various heroes, past and present, in attendance.

As is well known by now, Barney had to write and direct the five increasingly long, complex, and hermetic films of the CREMASTER cycle, 1994–2002, starring in all but one. This extravaganza recasts the moment of embryonic sexual differentiation as a multinarrative epic struggle that begins in Boise, Idaho, the artist’s hometown, and ends in Budapest, where Houdini was born.

What this project entailed has become a familiar litany. The

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