Bruce Nauman (American, b. 1941)For the past 50 years, Bruce Nauman has worked in every conceivable artistic medium, dissolving inherited genres and inventing new ones in the process. His expanded notion of sculpture admits wax casts and neon signs, bodily contortions and immersive video environments. Coming of age amid the upheavals of the 1960s, Nauman never adhered to rigid distinctions between the arts, but rather has staked his career on “investigating the possibilities of what art may be.”
After completing his graduate studies at the University of California, Davis, Nauman took up residence in an abandoned grocery store in San Francisco. Alone in the studio with time on his hands, he resolved that anything he did there could be art: “Sometimes the activity involve[d] making something, and sometimes the activity [was] the piece.” His efforts were often recorded on camera, as in Composite Photo of Two Messes on the Studio Floor (1967), which shows the plaster dust and refuse that litters his workspace—the dregs of the creative act. And in a series of now-iconic videos, he used his own body as raw material, engaging in humble, repetitive tasks that could be maddening (Bouncing in the Corner, 1968), coy (Walk with Contrapposto, 1968) or haltingly graceful (Slow Angle Walk (Beckett Walk), 1968). Each tedious exercise drones on for an hour—the standard length of a videotape—and subjects both artist and viewer alike to a minor test of endurance.
By the 1980s, Nauman’s setups were more elaborate and the tone of the work more caustic. The influential artist has participated in the 1977, 1985, 1987, 1991, and 1997 Whitney Biennales, with his work is included in the permanent collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Tate Modern in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Kunstmuseum in Basel, and many others. Nauman lives and works in Galisteo, NM.