MATTHEW BARNEY: NO RESTRAINT (Alison Chernick) Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
If there were software to design the ultimate art star, it would output Matthew Barney. Former quarterback, former model, boyfriend of Björk, he's all at once athletic, conceptual and effortlessly cool. It helps that his films, sculptures and photographs work within a closed vocabulary that he created and rigorously maintains. The best way into Barney is through Barney himself.
Though it eventually branches out to consider the American artist's Cremaster series and his whole body of work, Alison Chernick's No Restraint begins as a making-of documentary. The subject is Barney's Drawing Restraint 9, a majestic, ritualized love story set aboard a Japanese whaling ship and starring Barney and Björk.
Barney's film is eerie and magical. No Restraint demystifies it, which is both useful and disappointing. For that reason it's highly recommended to see Drawing Restraint 9 first. You want to be unsettled by the sight of 45,000 pounds of liquid petroleum jelly, for instance, before you learn the hows and whys. (Screening as part of the Canadian Art Reel Artists Film Festival, February 23, Al Green Theatre, Miles Nadal JCC. Chernick will attend.)