Matthew Barney rose to prominence in the late 1990s following the debut of the CREMASTER cycle, a series of films that he made between 1994 and 2002. The Albright-Knox's collection includes a series of five color photographs related to this infamous film project. Each image is a classically composed portrait of one of the central characters from the five films in the series: Goodyear from CREMASTER 1, 1995, played by Marti Domination; Gary Gilmore from CREMASTER 2, 1999, played by Matthew Barney; the Entered Apprentice from CREMASTER 3, 2002, played by Matthew Barney; the Loughton Candidate from CREMASTER 4, 1994, played by Matthew Barney; and the Queen of Chain from CREMASTER 5, 1997, played by Ursula Andress.
The narrative of Barney’s five-part film cycle is highly personal and complex. Beginning with a 1930s-style musical on a football field in Boise, Idaho (CREMASTER 1), the films include a Gothic Western focused on the execution of Gary Gilmore (CREMASTER 2), the mythic athletic struggles of the Entered Apprentice climbing the ramps of the Guggenheim Museum in New York (CREMASTER 3), the intertwined story of two motorcycle racers and a tap dancing satyr on the Isle of Man (CREMASTER 4), and a tragic love story set in nineteenth-century Budapest (CREMASTER 5).
The title “Cremaster” refers to the set of muscles that raises and lowers the male reproductive system in response to external stimuli; however, this biological link to sexual potential and differentiation is only one aspect of Barney’s densely symbolic and multi-layered story. His eccentric vision melds the biological with the mythological, aesthetics with athletics, and the wonderful with the weird.
Object label from Matthew Barney: Drawing Restraint 9, June 27–October 21, 2007