Facility of DECLINE reunites sculptures, recorded performances, drawings, and installations from Matthew Barney’s 1991 solo debut at Gladstone Gallery. While the show is not a complete replication of the original, it re-affirms its thematic devices- particularly the critique of white, heterosexual masculinity navigating through the modern society.
Upon entering, you are engulfed in the grotesque- the thick, fatty stench of petroleum jelly hangs in the air while sculptures replicating gym equipment made of tapioca, cast sucrose, and prosthetic plastics produce an oozing and visceral vibe comparable to the body-horror films of Cronenberg. The nightmarish and surrealistic gym scene offers no answers to the questions it introduces, you are meant to conjure resolutions while engrossing yourself in Barney’s choice of materials.
And yet, walking through the gallery, I wondered how these pieces could maintain their voice if installed alone- are they only coherent when in dialogue with each other? Without the context of a walk-in cooler with a cast petroleum-jelly decline bench inside, could I understand what the glass case containing wax dumbbells, mouthguards and a speculum was meant to represent? The materials are fetishized to such an extent, that the show itself becomes a living being - incomplete without all facets.