Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Facility of DECLINE reunites sculptures, recorded performances, drawings, and installations from Matthew Barney’s 1991 solo exhibition at Gladstone Gallery. While the show is not an exact replica, the original thematic devices are evident - particularly the presentation of white, heterosexual masculinity navigating through contemporary social expectations.

Upon entering, the viewer is engulfed in the grotesque- the thick, fatty stench of petroleum jelly hangs in the air while sculptures mimicking gym equipment made of tapioca, cast sucrose, and prosthetic plastics produce an oozing and visceral effect comparable to the body-horror films of Cronenberg.

And yet, walking through the gallery, I wondered how these pieces could maintain their power if installed alone- are they only coherent when in dialogue with each other? Without the context of a walk-in cooler containing a cast petroleum-jelly decline bench inside, would I understand what the glass case containing wax dumbbells, mouthguards and a speculum was meant to represent? Barney's materials are considered to the point of obsession, as if the piece is entirely about its choice of material. This fixation implies dependency- the pieces are symbiotic, the show is a living being and, is therefore, incomplete without all facets.


  1. I like the thorough details about all these art works in the gallery, topioca and prosthetic plastics for example. The only thing I would suggest is that maybe not jumping too fast to your interpretation in the first paragraph. Perhaps you could elaborate it more in second paragraph where you describe the materials of these sculptures. I think it might be more interesting if you could integrating them together.

  2. I enjoyed your descriptions of the sculptural pieces in the first few rooms. The description of the smell, and the textures of the pieces, really pulls me in and makes me feel like I have re-entered into that show. I would like, though, some more about the various videos posted around the exhibition. They seem integral to the interpretations of the work, mainly because they show muscled men actually using the sculptures as gym equipment. Also maybe a description of the last room, which had two videos and a refrigeration chamber filled with a sculpture of a benchpress.