The works in Embrasure draw from the narratives, processes, and imagery introduced in Barney’s latest project Redoubt, while expanding on its allegorical and cosmological themes.
Barney’s 2018 film Redoubt is set on a wolf hunt in Idaho’s rugged Sawtooth Mountains, continuing the artist’s long-standing preoccupation with landscape as both setting and subject. Redoubt adopts the ancient myth of Diana, goddess of the hunt, and Actaeon, a hunter who trespasses on her, as its narrative framework. In Redoubt, an Engraver, played by Barney, creates a series of plein-air drawings on copper plates as he stalks Diana and her attendants. An Electroplater in a remote laboratory subjects them to a chemical process that transforms the Engraver’s drawings: each plate is immersed in an electroplating solution, causing copper growths to form on the engraved lines. Her actions, undertaken with a ritualistic focus, transform the engravings into talismanic objects, connecting them to Barney’s work in drawing, sculpting, and performance.
The drawings in Embrasure, made with graphite and charcoal in the artist’s richly colored plastic frames, take the characters, sites, and iconography of Redoubt as points of departure into a world more ominous and strange. In these intricate drawings, Diana is rendered as a fierce deity, replete with tactical gear; Actaeon, whose mythical death is only a subtext in Redoubt, is here fully transformed and impaled on a burnt tree. Ornate fortresses of war allude to the military architecture that inspired this new project and its title; elevation maps are abstracted into feverish patterns. Barney’s fascination with the topography of Idaho is equaled here by a fixation on the celestial landscape, as the Lupus constellation – the wolf – appears in several drawings.
In Embrasure, Barney also debuts a series of etchings that combine traditional printmaking processes with the electroplating technique developed in Redoubt. In this case, a network of copper is propagated through minute pores in the paper etchings, creating nodules that partially obscure the engraved lines.
In addition to the works on paper, Barney presents a new sculpture, which he made with a tree harvested from a forest fire area in the Sawtooth Mountains. The work was made by pouring molten brass and copper into a hollowed-out recess in the tree, creating a unique cast that layers the two metals in an unrepeatable organic form.