You may hold Matthew Barney in great esteem as a poetic visionary or you may have written off the master of the Cremaster films as a pretentious David Lynch–meets–Damien Hirst scurrealist, but (a video of the new post-Cremaster performance notwithstanding) this show demonstrates that Barney can at least draw like a fiend. If you can see the drawings, that is, rendered as they are in graphite (and, oh yes, petroleum jelly) on black paper. Where in previous exhibited drawings Barney has displayed a debt to Joseph Beuys with nervous, totemic images, these are denser — despite the black, not because of it — and conjure the gnarled cruelties of Hans Bellmer or even Dalí. Barney’s vision in miniature is no less strange and tumultuous than in his films and live presentations, but here his sense of the precious seems entirely appropriate.
Drama suffuses the work in “Big Bang, and other origins,” a five-person colloquium on rapid expansion. The big bang, of course, was the nanosecond-and-a-half during which a morsel of matter went kablooey and the universe was born. Talk about tumult. Actually, the work here displays an underlying sense of order and clarity, even a purity of vision, that reflects the coherence scientists keep finding in the cosmos. Although hardly proponents of intelligent design, these artists make us a lot more comfortable in the universe than Barney does. Matthew Barney at Regen Projects, 633 N. Almont Ave., W. Hlywd.; Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; thru Jan. 19. (310) 276-5424. “Big Bang, and other origins” at David Salow Gallery, 977 N. Hill St., Chinatown; Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; thru Jan. 26. (213) 620-0240.