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Quick Sketches

Posted 10/28/2009

CREMASTER 4 Though not as visually indelible as 1999's Cremaster 2 nor as shamelessly decadent as 2002's Cremaster 3, Matthew Barney's Cremaster 4 may be the most accessible and linear of his five-part Cremaster Cycle. It was the first installment he made-in 1994-and features some of his soon to be recurring imagery. It includes a pair of highly stylized tandem motorcycles-one sky blue, one canary yellow-tooling around the Isle of Man, and Barney himself clad in a white suit and made up to look like a big-nosed, long-eared goat-man, who spends a good part of the film's 42 minutes tap dancing inside an all-white room with three nude, if sexually anodyne, red-headed creatures.

Cross-cutting between the two-the speeding motorcycles and the dancing goat-man-produces a rather curious, narcotizing effect: the sound is an odd mashup of tap shoes on a floor's surface and the howling revolutions of the motorcycles' engines. In some ways, Cremaster 4 is purposely opaque, but it also quite interestingly adheres to the entire project's ostensible biological model-the cremaster muscle that raises/lowers the testes-in albeit blunt/obvious visual metaphors. And by the time the red-headed creatures become a pit crew and a trio of gowned ladies frolicking on a plain and Barney's goat-man is passing through a narrow channel of petroleum jelly, Cremaster 4 has become a surprisingly easy to follow symbolic journey. Nothing here matches the visual power of the cowboy/rodeo scenes in Cremaster 2-and Barney is more image-maker than filmmaker-but it's a good introduction to the nascent stages of his mannered, symbolic universe. Cremaster 4 is shown with Barney's "Drawing Restraint 10," a video re-creation of one of his Yale undergraduate performances. Screens for free Oct. 29 at the Johns Hopkins University's Shriver Hall at 7 p.m. Visit for more details.

THE LETTERMEN Occasional City Paper contributing illustrators Post Typography-aka Double Dagger's Bruce Willen and Nolen Strals-hold a book launch party for their Princeton Architectural Press monograph Lettering & Type: Creating Letters and Designing Typefaces Oct. 29 at MICA's Falvey Hall in the Brown Center from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The party includes a reception, book signing, and collaborative Exquisite Corpse alphabet, and at 7:30 p.m. 26 designers (including CP Art Director Joe MacLeod), artists, and musicians give a two-minute ode to an alphabet or typographic character. For more information visit

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