Gladstone Gallery is pleased to present Facility of DECLINE, an exhibition of early works from Matthew Barney’s 1991 New York debut at the gallery’s former SoHo location. Marking a continued collaboration between the artist and gallery, key sculptures, videos, and drawings from the series will be reunited for the first time in twenty-five years.
In a presentation that mirrors the original moment, but does not replicate it, Barney’s works transform complex personal and historical narratives into sculptural objects, employing an unusual range of materials pioneered by the artist: petroleum jelly, prosthetic plastic, tapioca, and cast sucrose.
In October 1991, two filmed actions, BLIND PERINEUM and RADIAL DRILL, were performed by Barney, on-site at the gallery. These videos set the stage for an elaborate narrative featuring Oakland Raider Jim Otto, and the escape artist Harry Houdini, a story line that incorporates the two sculptures, REPRESSIA and TRANSEXUALIS , which bookend the exhibition.
The climbing path featured in those pivotal early videos is recreated in the Chelsea gallery forming a guide through the sculptures, including for the first time in this configuration, DRILL TEAM: screw BOLUS, an expansive and intricate installation that occupies its own room. This large-scale work includes 44 cast petroleum wax and jelly dumbbells punctured with the same ice screws and carabiners Barney used to scale the gallery ceiling in BLIND PERINEUM.
The exhibition is accompanied by Matthew Barney: OTTO Trilogy, an in-depth publication distributed by Yale University Press, that traces the progression of the artist’s three most significant early projects: Facility of INCLINE, Facility of DECLINE, and OTTOshaft. An introduction by Nancy Spector, essay by cultural critic Maggie Nelson, and a new text by the artist offer a key to understanding major themes that appear throughout Barney's oeuvre.
Matthew Barney was born in San Francisco in 1967 and lives and works in New York. Exhibitions include: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Museum for Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan; Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Serpentine Gallery, London; Kunsthalle Vienna, and Schaulager/Laurenz Foundation, Basel, Switzerland. Barney’s most recent project, RIVER OF FUNDAMENT (2014), a six-hour operatic film, debuted in New York in 2014 and screenings continue internationally. The film and related body of sculptures were exhibited in 2014 at Haus der Kunst, Munich, and traveled to The Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Barney has received numerous awards including the Aperto prize at the 1993 Venice Biennale; the Hugo Boss Award in 1996; the 2007 Kaiser Ring Award in Goslar, Germany and the San Francisco International Film Festival’s Persistence of Vision Award in 2011.