The Museum of Modern Art, in conjunction with the Laurenz Foundation in Basel, Switzerland, has acquired the complete archive of Matthew Barney’s epic Drawing Restraint series, an ongoing project the artist started twenty years ago while an undergraduate at Yale University, Director Glenn D. Lowry announced today. The acquisition was a joint purchase by MoMA and the Laurenz Foundation and the two organizations will share equal ownership of the work.
With Drawing Restraint, Barney pursues the idea that a self-imposed impediment can enhance an artist’s output, similar to the way athletes use resistance to build muscle and strength. The conceptual crux runs throughout the series of performances, which are documented in forms and presentation formats that have varied greatly over the years. Barney initially set up apparata in his studio that hindered his process of drawing, followed by performances done outside the studio that included the development of increasingly sophisticated and allegorical settings for use in filmmaking, most recently returning to a more physical approach. The resulting works capture aspects of his action in the form of? drawings, sculptures, vitrines of objects, photographs, video, and film.
“As remarkable as its precocious beginning is the fact that the series, now numbering sixteen, is still ongoing and evolving with no definite end after more than twenty years,” said Mr. Lowry. “Drawing Restraint provides an autobiographical path through Matthew Barney’s work and, in its scope, ambition, and continuity, is exceptional not only in his oeuvre but also in the art of the turn of the century.”
In the first six installments (1987-1989), Barney climbed on and struggled with various obstacles and physical restraints he set up in his studio, while attempting to make drawings on the wall or on the ceiling. The artist documented these efforts with video, and for some of the performances, he also produced a group of objects and drawings. In Drawing Restraint 7 (1993), a three-channel video installation, Barney took a sharp turn away from the earlier studio-bound practice and introduced the cinematic presentation and mythological elements that are now familiar features of his work. After the completion of the grand, five-part Cremaster Cycle (1994-2002), Barney resumed the series with Drawing Restraint 9 (2005), a feature-length film he made in Japan.
Barney returned to the simpler, athletics-inspired approach of the first six installments in the subsequent seven episodes of Drawing Restraint: he made 10 and 11 (both performed at the 21st Century Museum of Art, Kanazawa, Japan), and 12 (at Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul, Korea) in 2005; 13 (at Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York) and 14 (at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) took place in 2006; in 2007, he created 15 (made during a five-month-long transatlantic voyage) and 16 (at Serpentine Gallery, London).