Monday, May 27, 2013

Is It All About the Frame?



Success that is; art world success.  Not that I can define it because each artist seems to have a different dictionary that they're working from.  I spent the weekend in NYC seeing everything from sketchbooks, artist's works in progress in their studio, quiet powerful shows and art star work.

Viewing Matthew Barney at the Morgan Library got me thinking about frames because he has some unusual frames.  The little title cards always mention the frames....self lubricating frames, polyethylene frames and cast out of prosthetic limb material frames.

The exhibition, Subliming Vessel, focuses on Barney's drawings from the 1980's though works that storyboard his Cremaster Cycle film and his latest River of Fundament.

Generally I found the delicate light line of the drawings buried by the quirky artistry of the frames.  Barney's drawings seem studied and a bit tentative; something I found at odds with the exuberance of the frames.  Although for Barney, who is concerned with creating mythologies from obscure references perhaps this topsy turvy relationship of overpowering frame to pale, underwhelming drawing  is a devise in the overall fable.

Maybe the frame is everything.

The rest of the show happens in the vitrines, which are another framing device.  These contain the storyboards, which in this case contain a variety of photos, magazine clippings, diagrams that form a type of "connect the dots" insight into the artist's work on his Cremaster Cycle Films.   Selections from the Morgan collection are also in the vitrines, providing the additional [frame] of gravatas, plus additional references to the elaboration of the complex fable that Barney is weaving.

Not quite a fan yet, but Barney has enough of them and plenty of them screaming genius. I'm looking forward to his new work, River of Fundament. I went for the drawings and was disappointed, but I was enlightened by the overall effect that the layering of obscure connections the artist evolves. In effect, Subliming Vessel works well as a frame for insight into the artist's reference points.

Matthew Barney - Subliming Vessel at the Morgan Library through Sept. 2.

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