French gallerist Almine Rech-Picasso opened her first space in Asia on Shanghai's historic Bund in July this year, bringing her eponymous gallery's total locations to five. The Shanghai gallery occupies roughly 4,000 square feet on the second floor of the three-storey Amber Building, a beautiful warehouse space, originally occupied by the Central...
There's an inside joke amongst the team of Ashkal Alwan, The Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts: that every time an edition of its biennial forum on cultural practices is planned, a national crisis happens. The eighth edition of Home Works was no different: it opened on 17 October amidst the most devastating wildfires that Lebanon had witnessed...
Hans Hartung and Art Informel at Mazzoleni London (1 October 2019-18 January 2020) presents key works by the French-German painter while highlighting his connection with artists active in Paris during the 50s and 60s. In this video, writer and historian Alan Montgomery discusses Hartung's practice and its legacy.Born in Leipzig in 1904, Hans...
Bruce Nauman, Untitled (1967). Wax over plaster with rope. 43 x 66 x 11.5 cm. Courtesy: Daros Collection, Switzerland, © Bruce Nauman / 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich.
Bruce Nauman, 'Disappearing Acts'
17 March – 26 August
The Schaulager enjoys immense resources; its founder, Maja Oeri, a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and a major donor to its collection, is honoured with a MoMA gallery in her name. Bruce Nauman's detailed survey exhibition, created in collaboration with that New York institution, where it will subsequently travel, is arguably the best use of the Schaulager's ample space and art historical means since the museum opened in 2003. In gallery after gallery of drawings, sculptures, installations, video and sound pieces and immersive environments, Nauman is revealed as a foresighted observer and actor in the art field, one who also maintained a healthy disregard for that world. Take away his material, and what does an artist do?
Bruce Nauman likes to work in isolation on his farm, removing himself from the buzzing chatter of city life and the art world. His practice is shaped by personal interests such as ethics, politics, the body and language. Although he works across a range of media such as video installation, performance, sculpture, neon and photography, he is known as a conceptual artist whose work often unsettles his audience, making them aware of their own physical bodies and beliefs.
Nauman’s neon pieces—some of his most famous works—often explore the semantic possibilities and visual puns that occur when rearranging letters, such as Perfect Door/Perfect Odor/Perfect Rodo (1972) and Run from Fear, Fun from Rear (1972). Through this process of infusing satirical and absurd meaning into language, viewers begin to consider the role of semantics and the language of politics.
However, Nauman’s meaning is not always discovered immediately—viewers must dig deep to gauge his intention. When successful, onlookers are rewarded with themes that are pertinent to the everyday and range from life and death to spirituality and ethics. For those who do not dig deeper and instead take Nauman’s work at face value, other issues regarding the artist’s intent and misrepresentation surface. This is what the artist wants to be considered. The processes of art-making and transformation and the question of art’s purpose become relevant factors. Nauman’s work also references extreme mental states: despair, glee, humiliation, humour and hostility, to name a few.
Though Nauman’s work is associated with Minimalism, he does not conform to the fastidious finish and slickness often seen within the movement. Instead, his works seem crude or haphazard. Nauman also jumps between different media and style. This versatility has made Nauman all the more engaging and his work all the more challenging. For these reasons he is considered one of the most influential and prominent American artists today.
Nauman spent his childhood moving around various Midwestern locations. He graduated in 1964 from the University of Wisconsin, Madison with a bachelor’s degree in science and a minor in painting. That year he gave up painting and began experimenting with sculpture and performance art and collaborating on film projects. In 1966, he received an MFA from the University of California, Davis. His teachers there were working in sculpture outside its norms of the time, leading him to question his understanding of art and critique prominent methods and styles. From this, Nauman came to understand art as less of a product and more of an activity—asserting that anything made in an artist's studio could be art. Capturing 'performed actions', between 1966 and 1970, he worked extensively with video, focusing on behavioural codes of the body that went on to influence the next generation of video artists. Shot in real time, he produced a number of these works between his two studios in San Francisco and Mill Valley, California.
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