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All in the Present Must Be Transformed
Matthew Barney and Joseph Beuys at the Deutsche Guggenheim



The exhibition "all in the present must be transformed: Matthew Barney and Joseph Beuys" brings together two heroes of contemporary art. The encounter illuminates numerous and surprising common denominators between the shaman and political visionary from Germany and America's enigmatic Post-modernist faun. Curator Nancy Spector introduces the show, which runs through January 12 at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin.



Matthew Barney im Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2003
Foto: David Heald,
©Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York


all in the present must be transformed: Matthew Barney and Joseph Beuys examines affinities between the two artists, who, though separated by generation and geography, share aesthetic and conceptual concerns. The exhibition focuses on the metaphoric use of materials, the belief in metamorphosis, and the relationship between action and its documentation in their respective practices. It also reveals fundamental, philosophical differences between Matthew Barney and Joseph Beuys – fueled, no doubt, by the divide between modern and postmodernist thought – that, in turn, further enhances our understanding of each artist’s work.


Joseph Beuys, 1979, Foto: Mary Donlon
©The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation,
New York


Sculpture
Assembled during a performance in Rome as a benefit for the Italian newspaper Lotta Continua, Beuys’s Terremoto (1981) conflates key narrative threads. The type-setting machine refers to the power of newsprint to diffuse ideas on a massive scale. The manifestos affixed to the press relate to theories of social activism, environmental sustainability, and freedom of expression.



Joseph Beuys,Terremoto, 1981,
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Foto David Heald,© Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York,
©2006 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Beuys spread fat, his signature material, on the keyboard, metaphorically ascribing the tools for communication with a source of energy to insure the transmission of ideas. He wrapped an Italian flag in felt in a gesture informed by his association of the material with insulation and healing. The blackboards, covered with drawings of human heads, their mouths open in silent screams, allude to the victims of the earthquake that struck Naples in 1980, to which the title of the work refers.



Matthew Barney, Chrysler Imperial, 2002 (Detail),
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Foto: David Heald, © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York
©2006 Matthew Barney.

Barney’s Chrysler Imperial (2002) encapsulates sequences from the final film of his five-part CREMASTER cycle (1994-2003), which summarizes his essential themes. Each of the five main components, abstracted from cars competing in a demolition derby set in the lobby of the Chrysler Building, ca. 1930, bears the insignia of a specific CREMASTER episode and embodies the conflicts explored in the film cycle. As an abridged version of the cycle, Chrysler Imperial exemplifies how Barney distills cinematic narrative into sculptural dimensions – using his signature Vaseline and cast plastics – to extrapolate in space what he explores in time.

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