Matthew Barney Photogravure Prints from Drawing Restraint 9

A photo features a boat with a white collapsed structure on the deck.

Installation View, Mathew Barney, MIT List Visual Arts Center, 2008. Archival Slide

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The eight prints in this exhibition comprise a limited edition of eight signed and numbered black-and-white photogravure prints created by Barney from production stills of his filmDrawing Restraint 9 (2005). In the photogravure process, a photographic image is applied to a copper plate, the plate is chemically etched, the plate is hand-inked, and a print is created from the plate. Since the plate must be inked separately for each print, the process is quite time-and labor-intensive.

Drawing Restraint 9 is one of Barney’s more recent entries in his Drawing Restraint series, begun during his art studies at Yale.  The theme of the series is that restraint, self-imposed by an artist, develops creativity, in much the same way that physical exercise, pushed to the limit, can destroy and then rebuild muscle. Drawing Restraint 1 through 6, the earliest works in the series, are literal expressions: the artist draws in his studio while physically constrained in various ways; for example, while attached to an elastic cord or jumping on a trampoline.  In Drawing Restraint 7, one satyr attempts to draw with the horn of another while distracted by a third, all within a moving limousine.  Drawing Restraint 8 is a sculptural installation of drawings based on Barney’s “field emblem”,  a recurring element in many of his works.

Drawing Restraint 9 originated from an invitation by the 21st Century Museum of Art in Kanazawa, Japan to develop a new work.  The result was a narrative film with minimal dialogue and a soundtrack composed primarily by Barney’s life partner, the Icelandic musician Björk.  Barney and Björk appear in the film as the “Occidental Guests,” who board the Nisshin Maru, a Japanese whaling ship.  While on board, they engage in a series of rituals below deck while a crew working on deck constructs an enormous image of Barney’s field emblem from petroleum jelly.  It is from these scenes that the images on view are taken.

Matthew Barney was born in 1967 in San Francisco, and at the age of six moved with his family to Idaho.  After his parents divorced in 1979, he was raised mainly by his father in Boise, an environment in which he flourished as an athlete, engaging in football and wrestling.  However, frequent visits to his mother, an abstract artist, in New York, exposed him to the arts through museum and gallery visits.  He subsequently attended Yale University, earning a B.A. degree, and after a few stints as a model, began the art explorations that would quickly earn him accolades from the arts community, especially for a solo exhibition of his five epic videos in The Cremaster Cycle.  Barney’s practice includes sculpture, drawing, installations, performance, photography, and, perhaps most notably, video and film.