Through January 12, 2020, UCCA presents Matthew Barney: Redoubt, a major new body of work realized between 2016 and 2019 that marks the artist’s first solo exhibition in China. The exhibition includes the titular two-hour film, five monumental sculptures, more than fifty engravings and electroplated copper plates, and an artist-conceived catalogue, for which UCCA will publish a Chinese edition. Matthew Barney: Redoubt was organized by the Yale University Art Gallery, where it was shown from March 1 to June 16, 2019.
The artworks in Redoubt continue the artist’s notable shift in materials over the past decade, from the plastic and petroleum jelly of his early works to the cast metals that figured prominently in River of Fundament. With Redoubt, Matthew Barney (b. 1967, San Francisco, lives and works in New York) has combined traditional casting methods and new digital technologies with unprecedented techniques to create artworks of formal and material complexity, and narrative density.
The five large-scale sculptures in the exhibition, for instance, derive from trees harvested from a burned forest in the Sawtooth Mountains of northern Idaho, near the artist’s childhood home, which were then partially cast in copper and brass. One of the sculptures is a previously unseen piece, specially created according to the dimensions of UCCA’s Great Hall and displayed for the first time ever at the Beijing installment of Redoubt.
The exhibition also includes engravings on copper plate that Barney made during the filming of Redoubt, as well as a series of electroplated copper reliefs that feature imagery from the film, such as the landscape of the Sawtooth Mountains or a wolf among the trees. The electroplates were made using a technique that Barney developed during production of the film, which he then refined and expanded in the studio. On some plates, copper accretions overtake the drawing, transforming the engravings into abstract reliefs and almost completely obscuring the image.
Redoubt was filmed in Idaho’s rugged Sawtooth Mountains and continues Barney’s longstanding preoccupation with landscape as both a setting and subject in his films. By layering classical, cosmological, and American myths about humanity’s place in the natural world, Redoubt forms a complex portrait of the central Idaho region. Structured as a series of six hunts that unfold over seven days and nights, the film loosely adapts the myth of Diana, goddess of the hunt, and Actaeon, a hunter who accidentally trespasses on her and is punished.
Like most of Barney’s previous films, Redoubt is without dialogue; but in a marked shift, Barney has more fully incorporated dance into the narrative of the film, allowing the characters to communicate choreographically. Throughout the film, the characters’ movements are formalized into choreographies that echo, foreshadow and interpret their encounters with wildlife.
Eleanor Bauer, who also worked with Barney on River of Fundament, both performed in and choreographed Redoubt, in collaboration with K.J. Holmes, Sandra Lamouche and Laura Stokes. All of the dance passages were filmed on location, and the relationship between site and movement is a recurring theme.
Barney is among the most ambitious and provocative artists of our time, known for epic projects such as the CREMASTER Cycle (1994–2002). Both Redoubt and its related publication – which features essays by leading scholars of art history, dance theory and environmental studies – speak to the artist’s expansive interests.