Bruce Nauman

Born in 1941 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Bruce Nauman has been recognized since the early 1970s as one of the most innovative and provocative of America’s contemporary artists. Nauman finds inspiration in the activities, speech, and materials of everyday life. Confronted with “What to do?” in his studio soon after graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1964 with a BFA, and then the University of California, Davis in 1966 with an MFA, Nauman had the simple but profound realization that “If I was an artist and I was in the studio, then whatever I was doing in the studio must be art. At this point art became more of an activity and less of a product”. Working in the diverse mediums of sculpture, video, film, printmaking, performance, and installation, Nauman concentrates less on the development of a characteristic style and more on the way in which a process or activity can transform or become a work of art. A survey of his diverse output demonstrates the alternately political, prosaic, spiritual, and crass methods by which Nauman examines life in all its gory details, mapping the human arc between life and death. The text from an early neon work proclaims: “The true artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths”. Whether or not we -or even Nauman- agree with this statement, the underlying subtext of the piece emphasizes the way in which the audience, artist, and culture at large are involved in the resonance a work of art will ultimately have. Nauman lives in New Mexico.

 

… The last work that almost came up in neon was the piece I did, Partial Truth, when Konrad (Fischer) [of Konrad Fischer Galerie, Düsseldorf] was dying. It was the year that Susan (Rothenberg) and I had sublet a loft in

New York. Konrad had heard about that. He called and said, “Bruce, I hear you’re moving to New York”. I said, “No, well maybe partly. This is partly true”. And he said, “This is a piece. We’ll make this piece”. So I didn’t really think about it very much, but I did make a drawing. By the time I’d made a drawing, he’d already made plans to have it made in neon. Then he died before anything got done. I didn’t really want to do it in neon; it seemed appropriate to do it in stone. That was the last tiny thing that almost got done in neon.

 

Bruce Nauman discusses the process of creating Partial Truth in an interview by Joan Simon (2001) in Please Pay Attention Please: Bruce Nauman's Words: Writings and Interviews, ed. Janet Kraynak, The MIT Press / Cambridge, Massachusetts / London, 2005

Photos

Partial Truth, 1997, Hand-carved black granite, 45.7 x 61 x 5.1 cm, Private Collection, Athens

Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial), 2011 Biennale de Lyon