"Matthew Barney (born 1967, San Francisco) is one of the most celebrated artists of his generation. His practice encompasses a diverse array of media including drawing, sculpture, photography, performance, film and installation, which are presented in exhibitions that are conceived by the artist as a gesamtkunstwerk or total work. Barney’s exhibition at the Serpentine presents works from his Drawing Restraint series, which he began in 1987 while still in art school. Inspired by the idea of resistance training, he applied restraints to his body while drawing, exhibiting the resulting drawings, props and video documentation of the performances in the spaces where the actions had taken place. The Drawing Restraint series investigates the relationship between resistance and creativity and artistic and athletic bodies working at the threshold of physical limitations.
More recent works in the series continue to explore ways in which the body can be transformed, incorporating scripted narratives and diverse references ranging from Greek mythology to Japanese tea ceremonies and whaling The exhibition at the Serpentine explores, in some depth, the sculptural cycle related to Barney’s recent feature film DRAWING RESTRAINT 9, 2006, which is being screened at the Gate Picturehouse cinema during the course of the exhibition. The Serpentine has worked closely with the artist to realise this ambitious presentation of work featuring sculpture, drawings, film, photography and video. Barney has also made a new work, Drawing Restraint 16, for the Serpentine; drawings and other residue of this performance fill the Gallery’s large central space.
The Serpentine Gallery exhibition is accompanied by Drawing Restraint Volume V. The publication includes new texts on Barney’s Drawing Restraint series by New York-based writer and curator Neville Wakefield, Serpentine Gallery Chief Curator Kitty Scott and a short story by the award-winning Icelandic poet and lyricist Sjón. The book also includes previously unpublished images of Barney’s recent artworks.
Barney was awarded the Hugo Boss Prize in 1996 and has exhibited widely in solo and group exhibitions in the USA and internationally. The complete Cremaster cycle was the subject of a major exhibition organised by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 2002 that travelled to Museum Ludwig, Cologne, and Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris.
More recently, the Drawing Restraint series has been presented in different incarnations at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan; Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, both in 2005; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2006." – Serpentine Gallery.