Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 4

November 18, 2008

We asked Joe Sola—an artist whose work can currently be seen in Hard Targets—Masculinity and Sport and in an exhibition of paintings and video at Bespoke Gallery in New York—to share his thoughts on Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 4, which is screening here, along with his Drawing Restraint 10, this Thursday, in conjunction with Hard Targets.

The first time I heard about Matthew Barney’s work was in the nineties in New York City. I remember being at 7B, my favorite local bar in the East Village, where a couple of friends were talking about his sculpture of a weightlifting set cast out of Vaseline that had just been exhibited in the city. To view this sculpture you had to enter a large refrigerator. The refrigerator supposedly kept the Vaseline from losing its shape. The work got us speaking about a lot of things that evening, most of which started from this image of a sporty sexualization of the male body. It took me many years from that conversation (I am slow) to figure out that the real subject in his work, as well as mine, was that of what it is to be a guy in this world. His work is ripe with formal innovation and violence. It moves very quickly in that regard. If you haven’t yet, see his Cremaster 4 film from the Cremaster series. The word on the street is that the cremaster muscle is the muscle which pulls down the testicle from inside the male body to the outside, one of the physiological things that makes males different from females. You can see how he’s developed a language around this idea of “feminine” and “masculine” and how they meet and what they become. This film is filled with strangely choreographed scenes, underwater photography, helicopter shots, customized motorcycles, messy blobs, and a soundtrack filled with the screaming tear of engines.

Joe Sola

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