This weekend! Luminato Festival features multiple works by acclaimed artist Matthew Barney

As Toronto’s Luminato Festival did with Marina Abramovic in 2013, this year’s program provides a complete view of groundbreaking artist and filmmaker Matthew Barney. Born in 1967 in San Francisco, Barney now lives and works in New York. Since graduating from Yale in 1989, Barney has made a rapid impact on the art world with exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1991, 1996 and 2000), Documenta 9 (1992), Tate Britain (1995), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (2003) and the Haus der Kunst (2014).

This year, four separate Luminato events feature the work of Matthew Barney. His entire Cremaster Cycle (1995-2002) screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Saturday, June 7, 2014 at 4:00pm. The epic work comprises five films of varying lengths, totalling seven hours, and weaves mythological storylines, art-historical references, and abject symbolism through questions of artistic production. Described as “a new post-Oedipal myth for our contemporary culture,” the film uses the testicular cremaster muscle to metaphorically explore the ascensions and descensions inherent to the process of creation. Moving beyond traditional cinema, Barney supports and enhances each segment with photos, drawings, sculptures and installations. Iconic architectural landmarks such as New York’s Chrysler Building and Guggenheim Museum are prominently featured. Matthew Barney will introduce the screening. 

Barney’s most recent film, River of Fundament, screens at the Elgin Theatre on three separate days: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, June 6-9, 2014. A collaboration with Berlin-based musician Jonathan Bepler, Barney’s River of Fundament is an epic story of regeneration and rebirth. Conceived as a contemporary opera, this masterwork combines documentary footage of three live acts in Los Angeles, Detroit and New York with live-action cinema, and is viewable in only one worldwide location at any time.

The Art Gallery of Ontario is hosting a complementary exhibition entitled Drawing Restraint (1987-present), a significant and long-term project for Barney, in which he proposes art-making as parallel to athletic training: the development of form occurs through resistance. Begun while still a student at Yale, Barney was influenced by his background as an athlete and sought to foreground the physical body and its tensions in a studio practice. Running from May 31-September 28, 2014, Drawing Restraint comprises drawings, sculpture, photographs and video works emerging from his self-imposed and increasingly complex obstacles and scenarios. Considered together, Drawing Restraint forms an ongoing proposition for the harnessing of one’s impulses and drives into a desired output, artistic or otherwise. They demonstrate the underpinnings of Barney’s work, in which the body plays a central role, and ritualistic processes of creation are explored through manifold materials, settings and personas.

The earliest in the series, Drawing Restraint 1-6 (1987-1989), show simple studio experiments, where Barney attempts to mark the ceiling and the walls while bouncing on a tilted trampoline or tethered at the thighs with bungee cords. From the 1990s onwards, the artist began to introduce the spectacular cinematic narratives for which he is best known. Drawing Restraint 17 (2010) filmed in Switzerland, is a two-channel video bearing Barney’s signature high-production value and allegorical storytelling. Usually, in this series, Barney subjects his own body to physical tests; here for the first time, the protagonist is an athletic young Swiss woman, while Barney now plays the removed role of the established artist.

Additionally, audiences have an opportunity to meet Matthew Barney – in the context of a conversation with AGO Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Kitty Scott and Luminato’s Artistic Director Jorn Weisbrodt. Taking place at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Baillie Court at 2:00pm on Saturday, June 7, 2014, Barney’s landmark film River of Fundament will be their primary focus, and their discussion will touch on some of his earlier works, including the Drawing Restraint video series, selections from which are being presented at the Art Gallery of Ontario from May 31 through September 28, 2014. 

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