By Julie Riggott 04/26/2007
He's been called “the most important American artist of his generation” by New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman. But no matter what you think of Matthew Barney's quirky, oddly sexual, almost nightmarishly surreal work, you can't deny he is a phenomenon of contemporary art.
Best known for a series of films called “The Cremaster Cycle,” Barney also works with sculpture, drawing, photography and video, often incorporating various media and performance art in gallery and museum shows.
Last year's “Drawing Restraint 9,” a film shot in Japan with wife Björk, was just as creatively masterful and puzzling. The release of “Matthew Barney: No Restraint,” a documentary of the making of that film, offers some answers about that cinematic construct involving a whaling vessel and 45,000 pounds of petroleum jelly — a substance Barney has been particularly drawn to throughout his career.
“No Restraint” features interviews with Barney and Björk as well as critics and gallery owners, giving viewers an inside look at the artist and his internationally acclaimed work.
Director Alison Chernick succeeds in accomplishing a seemingly impossible task: providing an accessible glimpse of Barney's perplexing genius in a mere 72 minutes.