Matthew Barney


1967, San Francisco, California


Matthew Barney's ambitious and distinctive body of work has comprised performance, video, film, photography, drawing, sculpture, and installation.

Born in 1967 in San Francisco, Barney grew up in the Bay Area and Boise, Idaho. He initially registered in premedical studies at Yale University but eventually transferred to the art department. There he created performance-based installations and videos informed both by his experiences as a high school athlete and by his interest in biology and the human body. These early works dramatized the restraints placed on the body (Barney's body, in particular), and its potential to transcend them.

Since his rise to prominence in the early 1990s, Barney's epic projects have addressed — sometimes cryptically — themes including biology, geology, art history, metaphysics, film genres, and cult heroes. He has developed his central concerns by taking on a breathtaking array of cultural and historical allusions: from ancient Greek satyrs to Busby Berkeley, from Harry Houdini to Richard Serra, from Freemasonry to Japanese whaling.

His recent work, such as the expansive CREMASTER film cycle, employs biomorphic imagery and industrial materials (most famously petroleum jelly) to connect these diverse references and create a new language for the mythology of our existence.

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