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Bruce Nauman (born December 6, 1941, in Fort Waynemarker, Indianamarker) is a contemporary Americanmarker artist. His practice spans a broad range of media including sculpture, photography, neon, video, drawing, printmaking, and performance.

Life and work

Nauman studied mathematics and physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madisonmarker, and art with William T. Wiley and Robert Arneson at the University of California, Davismarker. He worked as an assistant to Wayne Thiebaud, and in 1966 he became a teacher at the San Francisco Art Institutemarker. 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 Mexicomarker.

Much of his work is characterized 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 literalizes 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.

Nauman began in the 1960s with exhibitions at Nick Wilder’s gallery in Los Angeles and in New York at Leo Castelli in 1968 along with early solo shows at the Los Angeles County Museum of Artmarker and the Whitney Museummarker in 1972. Through most of his midcareer until the early 1980s he flew just below the radar of art market experts.


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 Modernmarker. 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 where he won the prestigious Golden Lion.


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 Movement.


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 Diegomarker as part of the Stuart Collectionmarker 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.
  • Raw Materials (2004) - displayed in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modernmarker; successfully included a lifetime of text pieces into a single Gesamtkunstwerk-cum-audio retrospective.
  • Untitled "Leave the Land Alone" (1969/2009) - premiered as a public skywriting project over Pasadena for the Armory Center for the Arts in September 2009, initiated by curator Andrew Berardini. This work connects with LAAIR as well as lambastes the Land Art movement


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 Artmarker. 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

  • Robert C. Morgan ed. "Bruce Nauman", Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002

External links

General and biographical

Works by Bruce Nauman


Review and criticism

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