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.
Medium
Polycarbonate honeycomb, cast stainless steel, nylon, solar salt cast in epoxy resin, top hat, and beeswax in nylon and plexiglass vitrine
Dimensions
59" x 7' 11 1/2" x 38 1/4" (149.8 x 242.6 x 97.2 cm)
Credit
Committee on Painting and Sculpture Funds
Object number
212.2000.a-l
Copyright
© 2019 Matthew Barney
Department
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos.

If you notice an error, please contact us at digital@moma.org.

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at firenze@scalarchives.com. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA's Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email text_permissions@moma.org. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to archives@moma.org.

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.