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A Lighter Matthew Barney Goes Back to School, and Back Home

Two parallel homecomings give shape to “Redoubt,” the much anticipated and unexpectedly nimble new project that Matthew Barney debuted here earlier this month. One is to Yale University, where Mr. Barney, class of 1989, began to merge ornery sculpture made with plastics and Vaseline with athletic performances and perplexing symbolism. Thirty years after graduating, the artist elected to present his newest project on the campus where he made his first mature work, in which the undergraduate would dangle from his studio walls or climb naked at Yale’s cathedral-like gym.

The other homecoming is to central Idaho, where the artist grew up. As usual with Mr. Barney — whose epic “Cremaster” cycle (1994-2002) introduced a whole generation to the sexual potential of bees, rams, racecars and the Chrysler building — “Redoubt” combines sculptures, drawings and performances with a feature-length film that itself generates new artworks. Mr. Barney has filmed in Idaho before: The Busby Berkeley revue of “Cremaster 1” (1995) takes place on a blue Boise football field, while “River of Fundament” (2014), his six-hour noble failure of excrement-slicked reincarnation, features a poetic coda of salmon spawning in an Idaho river...

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