Matthew Barney's Big (No) Show

Some New York Times art critic called multi-media artist Matthew Barney the most important artist of our generation, and Los Angeles believed him.

Upper-crust art lovers - beautiful people in beautiful clothes - came out of the proverbial woodwork to Regen Projects Saturday night, where Barney’s new movie premiered in a small room next to an exhibition of accompanying drawings.

“It’s like everyone’s dirty little secret,” noted commercial director/ex-boyfriend Ben Weinstein. “We all love Matthew Barney.”

Ish. I wouldn’t call myself a fan, merely a curious observer. I snored my way through the Cremaster series, hoping for a pay-off that never came. I approach Barney’s work like those 3-D mind maps that if you stare at long enough, reveal a picture. It’s like, if I keep at it, something will come through.

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I’m still waiting.

“People go to a Matthew Barney show hoping to be shocked or offended or violated or creeped-out,” explained Weinstein. “Even moreso than hoping to see Bjork.”

Oh yeah, Barney and Bjork are an item. They share a child and a similar sensibility that renders them hip, edgy and abstruse. The artist was nowhere in sight. I imagined him canoodling in a nearby zeppelin with his rock-star girlfriend and a big bowl of concord grapes.

His latest film, Guardian of the Veil, is, as far as I could tell, another lengthy, inchoate exploration into Barney’s incomprehensible mythology.

Weinstein, all dandied-up in black velvet with pink accents, gave my friend Nina and I the Cliff Note version of the new film complete with wildly gesticulated improvisation and colorful descriptions of a woman in “like, a hoodie, but with sixty hoods,” and a naked woman urinating.

“Was she really urinating?” I asked.

“Uh-huh,” he enthused, wide-eyed, grinning from ear-to-ear. “It was, like, the best part of the movie.”

Weinstein, an idiot-genius of sorts and a talented artist in his own right, loves Matthew Barney.

“It’s like couture meets The Chronicles of Narnia,” he riffed. “He does it so unapologetically without flinching. I don’t get it, but I can’t stop looking at it.”

He gushed enthusiastically about Barney’s mysterious, disassociative explorations of sex and violence and bodily fluids, and his ability to move freely, and deftly, between various media – sculpture, painting, drawing and film.

I gave it one last try, going nose-to-glass with the faint, chalky sketches that hung between a smattering of larger photographs of smashed cars. But, aside from a cute boy wearing a stripey scarf and holding tightly to the leash attached to his dog, there was nothing at Regen Projects to excite me.

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