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Matthew Barney

In 1967, the critic Brian O’Doherty described “the ideology of the gallery space” as “idealized,” “sealed off,” “untouched by time.” If this were true when O’Doherty penned these words, by 1991 the white cube was neurotic, with the airs of a padded cell, or so Matthew Barney suggested in “Facility of DECLINE,” his solo exhibition at Gladstone Gallery that year. To mark that show’s twenty-fifth anniversary, the artist has reformatted the exhibition, with a number of the original works on display.

Upon first entering the gallery, there didn’t appear to be much to see (especially for a Matthew Barney production), and in fact, one of the show’s most important components was the least visible: a track of mounts running along the ceiling, which Barney had used in the original installation to traverse the space. Both a structuring device and a narrative arc, this obstacle course, which dipped down in places to the upper reaches of the gallery walls, also gave rise to a number of the objects in the exhibition, including two great videos—BLIND PERINEUM and RADIAL DRILL, both 1991—the former featuring Barney, mostly naked, with a mix of determination and grit in his eyes, some rock-climbing equipment around his waist and a blue helmet on his head, hanging from the ceiling. The videos played on small monitors, hung in the corners like surveillance equipment. Envision CrossFit for gallerygoers live-streamed on the internet. Of course, it’s not so difficult to imagine...

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