Matthew Barney The Cabinet of Baby Fay La Foe 2000

  • Not on view

The Cabinet of Baby Fay La Foe is a twenty-first-century cabinet of curiosities, a sculpture whose overall form doubles as a display case, yet whose enigmatic contents resist taxonomic classification. Preserved behind plexiglass are a stylized séance table, a stack of barbells cast in solar salt, and a veiled top hat filled to the brim with honeycombed beeswax. A vaguely anthropomorphic recumbent shape made of cast solar salt fixed with epoxy resin seems part body fragment, part crystalline landscape, and appears suspended in a liminal state between becoming and unbecoming. All, with the exception of the barbells, are attributes of Baby Fay La Foe, a real-life clairvoyant as well as a character in Barney's gothic Western Cremaster 2 (1999), the fourth film in the artist's epic, five-part Cremaster cycle.

Barney's overarching concerns are with the mutability, metamorphosis, and creation of form. Best-known for his feature-length films, he describes himself as a sculptor, insisting that all of his polyglot production—films, photographs, drawings, sculptures, banners, and installations—exists as a series of discrete yet interrelated objects within the multidimensional space of the Cremaster cycle's self-enclosed universe. The Cabinet of Baby Fay La Foe recapitulates on a microcosmic level key features of Barney's expansive cosmology. Drawing on Surrealist strategies of fragmentation, uncanny juxtaposition, and fetishistic display, the luminous nylon borders of the cabinet's vitrine are a material manifestation of film's (and photography's) omnipresent invisible frame. Filled with fantasy objects constructed from the artist's signature materials, the work is nominally a symbolic portrait, yet any fixed meanings remain sealed off, subject to transformation and thus tantalizingly out of reach.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 263.
Polycarbonate honeycomb, cast stainless steel, nylon, solar salt cast in epoxy resin, top hat, and beeswax in nylon and plexiglass vitrine
59" x 7' 11 1/2" x 38 1/4" (149.8 x 242.6 x 97.2 cm)
Committee on Painting and Sculpture Funds
Object number
© 2024 Matthew Barney
Painting and Sculpture

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