Art: The Strange Sensation

Matthew Barney can be a captivating oddity. Does that make him our most important young artist?

From the time he first came at us 12 years ago, Matthew Barney has been the great hope of an art world always looking for hope. By now, at 36, it's routine for him to be called the best artist of his generation. Certainly, there's a captivating ambition to his Cremaster cycle, five films totaling seven hours that may have no more than 12 lines of spoken dialogue but are otherwise very full of luscious, baffling imagery--a marching band forming the outlines of reproductive organs--and hit-or-miss celebrities: Ursula Andress, Norman Mailer, Barney himself and the fashion model Aimee Mullins, who is...

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