5 days, 5 films: Matthew Barney’s The CREMASTER Cycle

Matthew Barney, CREMASTER 4, 1994 Production still ©1994 Matthew Barney Photo: Michael James O’Brien Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Matthew Barney, CREMASTER 4, 1994, Production still, ©1994 Matthew Barney, Photo: Michael James O’Brien, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

In 1995, when The New York Times first reviewed of one of artist Matthew Barney’s CREMASTER Cycle films, his indulgent and elaborate five-part film epic, critic Michael Kimmelman asked, “What’s the idea? Who knows for certain, besides Mr. Barney? Maybe if you squint hard enough, you can read into the film some abstract fertility ritual… It’s frustrating and prolix, but also alarming and amusing. It has an elaborate and opaque symbolism, involving ancient myths… which Mr. Barney has adapted to his own mysterious purposes.”

In conjunction with the current exhibition Come as You Are: Art of the 1990s, the Blanton is pleased to present a series of special screenings of Matthew Barney’s The CREMASTER Cycle from March 15-19, during the week of SXSW. Filmed out of sequence from 1994 to 2002, and produced in tandem with related sculptures, photographs, and drawings, CREMASTER takes its name from the male cremaster muscles, which regulate testicular contractions due to external stimuli such as temperature and arousal.

From this conceptual point of departure Barney creates epic, dramatic scenes that build off historical and biological models: a chorus line of dancers forming the outlines of reproductive organs on a football field (CREMASTER 1); a gothic Western featuring line-dancing and a prison rodeo staged in a cast salt arena (CREMASTER 2); elaborate scenes of destruction and creation from New York’s Chrysler building and the Guggenheim’s Frank Lloyd Wright building to the shores of the Scottish Hebrides, starring Richard Serra and Aimee Mullins (CREMASTER 3); musings on the notion of drive, featuring a motorbike race set on the Isle of Man (CREMASTER 4); and a lyric opera starring Ursula Andress complete with a Baroque Budapest opera house and hermaphroditic water fairies in a pool of pearl bubbles (CREMASTER 5).

Matthew Barney CREMASTER 1, 1995 Production still ©1995 Matthew Barney Photo: Michael James O'Brien Courtesy Gladstone Gallery
Matthew Barney, CREMASTER 1, 1995, Production still, ©1995 Matthew Barney, Photo: Michael James O’Brien, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery

Arguably some of the most elaborate and significant artworks of the 1990s, The CREMASTER Cycle films employ a unique symbology and an indulgent, complicated approach to narrative that are each inherent to the Barney’s practice. Not to be missed!

Evan Garza
Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Screenings are held daily at 12 noon beginning Tuesday, March 15 and ending Saturday, March 19.
Free with museum admission. 
These films contain mature images and are intended for adult audiences.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top