Title page for ETD etd-0416102-184739

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Benitez, Rosalie Claire
URN etd-0416102-184739
Title The Imaginary Sculpture of Matthew Barney
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department Art
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Susan Elizabeth Ryan Committee Chair
Mark J. Zucker Committee Member
Michael Crespo Committee Member
  • matthew barney
  • sculpture
  • contemporary art
  • cremaster
Date of Defense 2002-03-28
Availability restricted
The American artist Matthew Barney considers himself a sculptor, but an acceptance of the methods and mediums that Barney employs in his art as "sculpture" requires a rethinking of the term. The historical concept of sculpture as an ideological monument embodying a religious or political allegory, or its Modernist revision as an autonomous, three-dimensional object is radically redefined in Barney's use of film, video, sculpture, photography, and drawing to convey a contemporary allegory on the creation of form.

Barney's work explodes the structural boundaries that Rosalind Krauss defined in her 1978 essay "Sculpture in the Expanded Field," in which she examined the contemporary condition of sculpture in the practices of artists working in the late 1960s and 1970s. In a later essay of 1990, "The Cultural Logic of the Late Capitalist Museum," Krauss proposed that the "aesthetic experience" of viewing art has been replaced by a "simulacral experience," as a consequence of works of art being assigned an "asset" value rather than a cultural value. Barney's primary use of film and sculpture to create one work of art commands simultaneously "simulacral" and aesthetic experiences of the viewer.

The artist's epic CREMASTER project (1994-2002) exemplifies the conceptual leap the viewer must make in accepting the work as sculpture. Barney reassigns the formal properties of the mediums of film and sculpture in reverse, so that his films are treated with a physical presence in three-dimensional space as bodies or sites, while his sculptures, in their materials and allusions to the preceding films, are characterized by ephemerality. In the context of a cinema or museum, the work maintains an aesthetic experience, but a whole experience of the work as sculpture can only be "simulacral" and exist in the viewer's imagination.

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