Go See: Matthew Barney’s ‘Ancient Evenings: Libretto’ at Gladstone Gallery in Brussels through May 9, 2009

April 7th, 2009

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Installation view of Matthew Barney’s ‘Ancient Evenings: Libretto’ via Gladstone Gallery

On view now at Gladstone Gallery in Brussels is Matthew Barney’s ‘Ancient Evenings: Libretto,’ a series of drawings from the seven act opera that Barney is developing with Berlin-based composer Jonathan Bepler.  The opera is based on Norman Mailer’s novel Ancient Evenings, set in ancient Egypt chronicling the journeys of the dead, reincarnation, and the gods. The opera follows the seven stages the soul passes through after bodily death according to Egyptian mythology.  Barney replaces the human body with that of the 1967 Chrysler Imperial that figured heavily in his film Cremaster 3, displacing the ancient mythic landscape of the Nile and pyramids for an industrial contemporary setting.  The exhibition includes very detailed drawings of characters in the opera as well as a number of copies of Mailer’s book which Barney has reworked.

Matthew Barney – Ancient Evenings: Libretto [Gladstone Gallery]
Matthew Barney – Ancient Evenings: Libretto [Look Into My Owl]
Ren Master [Interview]


Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler’s ‘Ren: Chrysler’ via Interview

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Matthew Barney’s ‘Ancient Evenings: Ba Libretto’ via Gladstone Gallery

Each book is opened to display a drawing relating to one of the seven stage of the soul. The books rest on a block of carved salt and are placed in vitrines mounted on the wall. Barney uses a number of unusual materials in his drawings, such as lapis dust, crude oil plastic, metal leaf, and petroleum jelly. The drawings map out character development for the first two acts of the opera, ‘Ren’ and ‘Sekhem.’ ‘Ren’ was performed last May in Los Angeles.

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Matthew Barney’s ‘REN: Junta de Culata’ via Gladstone Gallery

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Installation view of Matthew Barney’s ‘Ancient Evenings: Libretto’ via Gladstone Gallery

‘Ancient Evenings: Libretto’ runs through May 9, 2009 at Gladstone Gallery’s Brussels location. Acts 2-4 of the opera are currently in production for this summer.

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Matthew Barney’s ‘Ancient Evenings: Ka Libretto’ via Gladstone Gallery

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Matthew Barney’s ‘REN: Nombre Secreto’ via Gladstone Gallery

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Matthew Barney’s ‘Ancient Evenings: Ba Libretto’ via Gladstone Gallery

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Installation view of Matthew Barney’s ‘Ancient Evenings: Libretto’ via Gladstone Gallery