Matthew Barney

SECONDARY: light lens parallax

★★★☆☆

On until 27 July 2024

Matthew Barney’s work has few parallels in the contemporary art world. His films double down on Jodorowsky and his performances would put the young Abramović to shame. His bizarre installations challenge Beuys. A decade he spent working with Björk put his work in front of millions.

Secondary carries on with the artist’s trademark monumentality. It turns the gallery into an American Football stadium. Video screens hang from the ceiling to magnify the action for fans in the cheap seats. Barney’s game takes place only on those. Spectators shuffle around the Astroturf pitch, bumping into pillars and scaffold-like sculptures.

The hour-long video opera follows the athlete’s body in motion. The image mixes grace with industrial grit in a tone familiar from Barney’s River of Fundament cycle. The sport and stage costumes expand the artist’s study of physical restraint, the subject of his experiments already in the 1980s. The piece climaxes with the infamous 1978 pitch injury of the wide receiver Darryl Stingley which left the player paralysed.

The drawings and objects which accompany the film make Barney’s obsession with strength, elasticity, and brittleness of the human corpus explicit. The video’s installation enhances it, forcing all necks to crane uncomfortably. But it misjudges this warehouse gallery space. The objects’ proportions are at odds with the body’s grace to which they refer. All the seats in the house are the cheap seats, granted, but their discomfort is distracting, and the game lacks a cheerleader. This would be a trivial complaint in any other artist’s work, but for Barney, muscular fatigue must count for more.


notes and notices are short and curt exhibition reviews. Read more:

Christine Ay Tjoe, Lesser Numerator at White Cube ★★☆☆☆

Christine Ay Tjoe

Lesser Numerator

★★☆☆☆

Aj Tjoe’s paintings could make great scenic backdrops to a David Attenborough documentary on the life of wild rodents

Eddie Ruscha, Seeing Frequencies at Cedric Bardawil ★☆☆☆☆

Eddie Ruscha

Seeing Frequencies

★☆☆☆☆

But either the curator or the artist should have known better.

Co Westerik, Centenary at Sadie Coles HQ ★★★☆☆

Co Westerik

Centenary

★★★★☆

Westerik catches his figures in deep contemplation in front of the mirror, in the gynaecologist’s chair, or even mid-orgy.

Anastasia Pavlou, Reader at Hot Wheels ★★☆☆☆

Anastasia Pavlou

Reader, Part 2; The Reader Reads Words in Sentences

★★☆☆☆

In this game of aesthetic cognition, the idea which survives is of the artist thinking.

Julia Maiuri, Yesterday & The End at Workplace ★☆☆☆☆

Julia Maiuri

Yesterday & The End

★☆☆☆☆

One can only imagine that some unconscious loathing of postmen motivated this project.

Gray Wielebinski, The Red Sun is High, the Blue Low at ICA ★☆☆☆☆

Gray Wielebinski

The Red Sun is High, the Blue Low

★☆☆☆☆

I knew that it was possible to understand art and life less after seeing an exhibition. I didn’t, however, imagine that experiencing Wielebinski’s work twice would only compound such damage.

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