Sep 26, 2011

REVIEW | All in the Present Must Be Transformed: Matthew Barney and Joseph Bueys, Nancy Spector, Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2006


All in the Present Must Be Transformed:  Matthew Barney and Joseph Beuys, Organized by Nancy Spector, Guggenheim Museum Publications


This lovely linen bound book is a product of the Matthew Barney and Joseph Beuys exhibit at the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin which the book is named after.  Three contributing authors provided essays and were organized by one of the authors.  Nancy Spector, seemingly well-rounded curator of the Guggenheim, presents her ideas of the similarities between the two artists.  Mark C. Taylor, published college professor, provides a beautifully worded comparison of the concepts, mythology, and materials used by Beuys and Barney.  Christian Scheidemann, conservator of contemporary artwork, digs into the processes of Barney and Beuys' attempt to cast and create.

Being a fan of both Bueys' and Barney's artwork for the past couple of years, I picked up this book a year ago while out with my parents.  I was intrigued to see that there had been a book created about Barney and Beuys, together.  The idea for the exhibition was created around two well known Guggenheim exhibits (both being central around the spiraling ramp):  Barney's CREMASTER cycle of 2002-2003 and Bueys'"Stations" of 1979.  The initial idea for the mash-up came from the curator, Nancy Spector, who had helped Barney with his CREMASTER cycle.  Unlike her fantastic vision, her essay is confusing as she throws obscure, cluttered comparisons of Beuys and Barney.  Spector compares Beuys' Division of the Cross/Eurasia, 34th Section of the Siberian Symphony, a work that is in hope for a peaceful future in Germany, to Barney's DRAWING RESTRAINT 9 project which is a film about the "Occidental Guests" on a Japanese whaling boat.  It seemed as if she could not discover a similarity to save her life.  Nancy Spector's essay left a metallic taste in my mouth, as she praised golden boy Barney's cremaster muscle lowering and rising but only skimmed over Beuys' body of work.   Was going to give the book to Half-Price Books.

Joseph Beuys, How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, Performance photograph, 1965.

My faith in the book was reinstalled after 50 images of Beuys' and Barney's drawings followed by the well written, expressive essay from academic Mark C. Taylor!  Taylor broke down the bases of both artist's artwork and careers:  Symbolism and Spiritualism.  The readable essay brought forward that both artists from young ages were drawn to Celtic mythology and Catholicism.  Then bringing the Vaseline (Barney) and Fat (Beuys) comparison to the table, and how these survival-like materials are significant in the creation of their works.  Taylor composes paragraphs to help the audience understand why Beuys and Barney "concern [is] for the transformation of substance" and how those materials (beeswax, food, vaseline, fat) translate their narratives.


Restorative superhero Christian Scheidemann, (I have devoted my life to be a contemporary art restorer) captivated me in his essay.  Scheidemann has restored both Barney's and Beuys' artworks, and a large list of other large name contemporary artists.  Scheidemann had worked with Barney on the stabilization of the large Vaseline sculptures, and Barney's food items used in OTTOshaft:  Metabolism of the Hubris Pill (1992-2001).  Documenting the process and noting on how important it is for the audience to know the artist's process and history when dissecting contemporary art.  Equally praising Beuys and Barney for how they created their symbolic materials.  Well played Scheidemann!


All together the book was informative of the similarities, and I am glad that it possess a place on my self.  Message to the Guggenheim:  Have someone other than Nancy Spector writing publications!

-Catherine Rigdon

Matthew Barney, DRAWING RESTRAINT 7, Production still, 1993



1 comment:

  1. Wow lady, well done! Makes me want to read the book, well...the second part. The only criticism that I would give, and it may just be a stylistic thing so no sweat if you disagree, but you break the fourth wall when you speak, especially in exclamations. Personally, I liked it. It added a lighthearted punch to an otherwise heady blog post. But at the same time, it may make the post less credible? IDK.

    -Sarah Beth Perry

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