Ed Halter has a great review in The Village Voice on the Matthew Barney film Drawing Restraint 9. He compares the artist to Jean Cocteau, Maya Deren, and Kenneth Anger, who unlike Barney do not suffer from issues of poor scenography. He makes a very point, and though these issues are rather obvious, and he brings to light the more interesting comparison of Cocteau as a surrealist influence. If Barney has the importance Kimmelman claims than you can blame him for the non-linear narrative artists that seem to be so popular today. I came up with four shows off the top of my head that fit this bill, and listed them as a reference at the bottom of this post. Frankly, since no one can remember an artist who was popular more than five years ago these days, the idea that Barney is the vehicle of Surrealist influence seems more likely than it coming directly from the source. It is possible that I am underestimating these artists though.
Incidently, an astute reader called me out a while ago on the generalizations I made in the post “The Importance of Michael Kimmelman”, which discussed the ramifications of saying it is okay to make complex indecipherable work in the same breath as Barney is the most important artist of our generation. Of course I cited no examples, saying, “the endless Barney inspired “complex cosmology artists” that now litter the contemporary art world, and paralyzed critics who have nothing but praise for the shit” which, admittedly is a problem. Interestingly enough, as I began to list some of these artists I realized that I like more of them than I dislike. The best example of this being, Matthew Day Jackson whose work I like quite a bit, though ironically, is becoming too focused to continue to fall into this category.
*Four group shows off the top of my head working featuring artists working with surrealist ideas:
Seeing is Believing: Bronx River Art Center
Emotional Landscape: Rotunda Gallery
Invisible NYC: John Breiner
The Seventh Side of the Die: Alona Kagan Gallery