Bruce Nauman (born December 6, 1941, in Fort Wayne, Indiana) is a contemporary American artist. His practice spans a broad range of media including sculpture, photography, neon, video, drawing and performance.
Life and work
Nauman studied mathematics and physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and art with William T. Wiley and Robert Arneson at the University of California, Davis. He worked as an assistant to Wayne Thiebaud, and in 1966 he became a teacher at the San Francisco Art Institute. In 1968 he met the singer and performance artist Meredith Monk and signed with the dealer Leo Castelli. In the 1980s he moved to New Mexico.
Much of his work is characterised by an interest in language, often manifesting itself in a playful, mischievous manner. For example, the neon Run From Fear- Fun From Rear, or the photograph Bound To Fail, which literalises the title phrase and shows the artist's arms tied behind his back. There are however, very serious concerns at the heart of Nauman's practice. He seems to be fascinated by the nature of communication and language's inherent problems, as well as the role of the artist as supposed communicator and manipulator of visual symbols.
In 1993, Nauman received the Wolf Prize in Arts (an Israeli award) for his distinguished work as a sculptor and his extraordinary contribution to twentieth-century art. In 1999, he received the Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale
. In 2004 he created his work Raw Materials
specifically for display at the Tate Modern
. Artfacts.net ranked Nauman as the number one among living artist in 2006, followed by Gerhard Richter
and Robert Rauschenberg
On January 25, 2008, the US Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) announced the selection of Bruce Nauman as the American representative to the 2009 Venice Biennale.
Nauman cites Samuel Beckett
, Ludwig Wittgenstein
, John Cage
, Philip Glass
, La Monte Young
and Meredith Monk
as major influences on his work. Nauman was a part of the Process Art
Some of his better-known works include:
- Laair (1970) - A soft-cover artist's book, featuring only 10 color illustrations [photographs] of the Los Angeles skyline. No text.
- Clown Torture - in separate stacked video screens, a clown screaming "No" repeatedly, a clown telling an annoying children's joke, a clown balancing goldfish bowls, and a clown sitting on a public toilet.
- Vices and Virtues (1988) - Atop the Charles Lee Powell Structural Systems Laboratory on the campus of the University of California, San Diego as part of the Stuart Collection of public art: neon signs seven feet tall, alternating the seven vices and seven virtues: FAITH/LUST, HOPE/ENVY, CHARITY/SLOTH, PRUDENCE/PRIDE, JUSTICE/AVARICE, TEMPERANCE/GLUTTONY, and FORTITUDE/ANGER.
- The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths - a spiraling neon sign with this slogan.
- Setting a Good Corner - looping video of the artist setting a corner fencepost.
- World Peace - five projectors or video players displaying four women and a man each speaking simultaneous monologues about world peace.
- Learned Helplessness in Rats (Rock and Roll Drummer) - maze, closed circuit video camera, video projector, two videotape players, two monitors, and two videotapes. collection of MOMA.
- Henry Moore bound to fail, back view(1967)- In 2001, this work sold for $9 million at auction. This is one of the highest prices paid for Nauman's work.
Nauman was one of the four performers of the rarely performed Steve Reich piece Pendulum Music on May 27, 1969 at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The other three performers were Michael Snow, Richard Serra and James Tenney.
Nauman's work The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths is seen in the background of Eric Fischl's Krefeld Project, Dining Room Scene 2.
Since 1989, he has been married to the artist Susan Rothenberg.
References and further reading
- Ketner II, Joseph (2006). Elusive Signs - Bruce Nauman Works with Light. The MIT Press. ISBN 0-944110-83-5.
- Dexter, Emma; Bruce Nauman (2005). Raw Materials. Tate. ISBN 1-85437-559-8.
- (2003). Please Pay Attention Please: Bruce Nauman's Words: Writings and Interviews. The MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-64060-0.
- Robert C. Morgan ed. "Bruce Nauman", Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002
General and biographical
Works by Bruce Nauman
- Bruce Nauman: Current exhibition at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, May 26-September 3, 2007.
- A Rose Has No Teeth: Bruce Nauman in the 1960s Current exhibition at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, January 17-April 15, 2007.
- A Rose Has No Teeth: Bruce Nauman in the 1960s Current exhibition at the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea of Rivoli (Italy), May 23- September 9 2007.
- Bruce Nauman: Make Me Think Me Exhibition at Tate Liverpool, UK, Summer 2006. Online resources include video footage of neons.
- Unilever Series: Bruce Nauman Raw Materials sound installation at Tate Modern, London, UK, 2004
Review and criticism
- Can everyone hear at the back?, by Rose Jennings, The Observer, October 10, 2004 - Martin Creed, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, John Baldessari and others on Bruce Nauman
- Inside the mind of Bruce Nauman, by Adrian Searle, The Guardian, October 12, 2004
- Nauman's rehashed sounds reverberate around the Tate's emptiness, by Charlotte Higgins, The Guardian, October 12, 2004
- From a whisper to a scream, by Laura Cumming, The Observer, October 17, 2004
- Sound of surprise, with no risk of playing to the gallery, by Charlotte Simmons, The Guardian, October 9, 2004
- Raw Materials Sound installation by Bruce Nauman at Tate Modern