Over five hours long, River of Fundament is a liquid spectacle of words and music, mercury and sulphur, molten iron, blood and feces, polluted industrial rivers in New York and Detroit, a river in Idaho where sockeye salmon go to spawn and die. Rivers of shit run through it. I came out winded, ravished, appalled. “I am asking a lot of the audience, for sure,” Barney tells me.
Based on Norman Mailer’s 1982 novel Ancient Evenings, the film conflates Egyptian myth and modern America, the death and reincarnation of the novelist, cars, sex and creativity. River of Fundament has been presented in opera houses in Munich and Adelaide, and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Barney was a success almost as soon as he left Yale in 1989, being given a solo show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1992, and appearing in Documenta 9 and the Whitney Biennial a year later. But it’s true that his art never has been for everyone. A sculptor, performance artist and film-maker, Barney often develops his works over years.
The Guardian, June 16, 2014, excerpt from an interview with Adrian Searle
MATTHEW BARNEY, FILMMAKER EXTRAORDINAIRE IS ONE OF THE MANY INNOVATIVE AND CHALLENGING ARTISTS THAT ARE REPRESENTED BY BARBARA GLADSTONE GALLERY. THE GALLERY HAS REPRESENTED BARNEY AND HELPED TO FINANCE SUCH INTENSE PROJECTS AS “THE CREMASTER CYCLE”, A SERIES OF FIVE FEATURE-LENGTH FILMS TOGETHER WITH RELATED INSTALLATIONS, SCULPTURE, DRAWINGS AND ARTIST’S BOOKS. THAT IS JUST ONE OF MANY CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS AT GLADSTONE THAT INFLUENCE AN ENTIRE GENERATION IN TERMS OF TECHNICAL VIRTUOSITY, SUBJECT MATTER AND CONCEPTUAL IDEAS.
NOT ONLY IS THE GALLERY A MAGNET FOR ARTISTS SUCH AS BARNEY BUT ALSO FOR GALLERISTS SUCH AS KATE ABRAMS, WHO WANTS TO WORK WITH THE BEST, MOST PROVOCATIVE TALENTS IN THE ART WORLD.
TODAY, IN OUR LRFA BLOG, KATE ABRAMS, NOW AN ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR AT HAUSER AND WIRTH, SHARES WITH US HER FIRST JOB IN NEW YORK AT GLADSTONE, WHAT IT ENTAILED AND HOW IT PREPARED HER FOR A GREAT CAREER TRACK .
KATE, WELCOME BACK!
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST GALLERY POSITION AND HOW DID WAS THAT EXPERIENCE THE FIRST STEP WITHIN THE GALLERY SYSTEM?
I was a gallery assistant at Gladstone Gallery. Front desk all the way! Barbara is so impressive and has amazing taste. So just being surrounded by that level of talent was a privilege and great learning experience. Matthew Barney, Carroll Dunham, Jim Hodges, Rosemarie Trockel – still some of my favorites today.
WHAT ARE THE PRIMARY AREAS OF RESPONSIBILITY OF THE GALLERY ASSISTANT, ALTHOUGH I AM SURE IT VARIES DEPENDING ON THE SCALE AND SCOPE OF THE GALLERY.
It really depends on the gallery. Everything from managing the checklists to research projects on specific works of art. It’s a lot of support but it’s important to learn how the gallery works from the bottom up. And also familiarize yourself with all the faces and names that walk through the door.
AS AN ASSISTANT TO THE DIRECTOR, WHAT WERE YOUR FUNCTIONS AND WHAT AREAS OF EXPERTISE DID YOU DEVELOP THE MOST FROM THIS EXPERIENCE?
Being very organized!
AN ARTIST WHOM I GREATLY ADMIRE AND HAVE FOLLOWED FOR SOME TIME IS MATTHEW BARNEY WHO IS REPRESENTED BY BARBARA GLADSTONE GALLERY. WHAT WAS YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN HIS 2011 EXHIBITION, DJED, AND IN HIS WORK IN GENERAL.
At the time I was assisting the director who worked closely with Matthew. ‘DJED’ was his first show at the NY gallery in 5 years and was a big production. We made a small booklet to accompany the exhibition which I helped to research, edit and produce.
WHAT OTHER ARTISTS DID YOU LIAISE WITH DURING THE TIME AT GLADSTONE? HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE THEIR WORK, SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES, AND WHAT PROJECTS AND EXHIBITIONS WERE THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR TIME THERE?
‘DJED’ was definitely a favorite show. I also loved a few of our curated shows – ‘The Unfinished Film,’ curated by Thomas Beard, and ‘Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha,’ curated by Mika Yoshitake.
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE EXHIBITIONS THAT WERE THE MOST REWARDING AND WHICH WERE MOST CHALLENGING?
I think the exhibitions that were the most challenging were also the most rewarding. For instance Thomas Hirschhorn’s ‘Concordia, Concordia’ – Thomas turned the 21st Street gallery into the interior of the Costa Concordia, the cruise ship that capsized and sank in Italy in 2012. I found all of these terribly tacky casino-type carpet patterns for Thomas to choose from. We also had to source hundreds of chairs and other things that would make the installation look like the destroyed remains of a cruise ship dining room. We struck gold outside of Atlantic City at a casino-liquidation warehouse. We made a few trips with a truck down there.
YOU HAVE ALWAYS BEEN INVOLVED WITH GALLERIES KNOWN FOR THEIR PHENOMENALLY DEDICATED SUPPORT OF THEIR ARTISTS, SHOWING INSTALLATION, FILM AND VIDEO. YOUR COMMITMENT TO THE ARTS IS CLEARLY REFLECTED IN THE GALLERIES IN WHICH YOU HAVE WORKED.
IN OUR NEXT LRFA BLOG POST, KATE WILL CONTINUE TO SHARE HER EXCEPTIONAL PROFESSIONAL HISTORY WITH US.
THE LRFA BLOG WISHES EVERYONE A HAPPY THANKSGIVING. WE SHOULD EXPRESS GRATITUDE EVERYDAY BUT CERTAINLY AT THANKSGIVING. THANKS TO THE EXTRAORDINARY CONTRIBUTORS FOR THEIR THOUGHTFUL AND INFORMATIVE POSTS AND THEIR INSIGHTS INTO THE ART WORLD, ART AND THE MARKET. THANKS TO THE GROWING NUMBER OF SUBSCRIBERS AND FOLLOWERS. WHEN I STARTED THE BLOG IT WAS JUST FOR THE PURPOSE OF STAYING CURRENT AND REACHING A NEW AUDIENCE. I AM GRATEFUL FOR ALL THAT I LEARN FROM THOSE I INTERVIEW AND FOR THE OVERWHELMING SUPPORT OF THOSE THAT READ IT.