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Bruce Nauman

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Bruce Nauman Biography

born Fort Wayne, IN (USA) 1941

Bruce Nauman (born December 6, 1941, in Fort Wayne, Indiana) is a contemporary American artist. His pluralistic practice spans a broad range of media including sculpture, photography, neon, video, drawing and performance. He is widely acknowledged as one of the most important living artists.

He studied mathematics and physics at the University of Wisconsin, and art with William T. Wiley and Robert Arneson at the University of California in 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 moves to New Mexico. Much of his work is characterised by an interest in language which often manifests 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 the work. Nauman seems to be interested in the nature of communication and the inherent problems of language, as well as the role of the artist as supposed communicator and manipulator of visual language. In 1999 he received the Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale. In 2004 he created his work Raw Materials at the Tate Modern.

Nauman cites Samuel Beckett, Ludwig Wittgenstein, John Cage, Philip Glass, La Monte Young and Meredith Monk as major influences on his work.

Select Timeline

  • 1960 - Enters University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • 1964 - Marries first wife, Judy, in Madison, Wisconsin
  • 1964 - B.S. University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • 1966 - M.F.A. University of California, Davis
  • 1966-1968 - Taught at San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco
  • 1968 - Receives Artist Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts
  • 1969 - Stages performance in New York at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
  • 1970 - Birth of daughter, Zoe. Invited by Jasper Johns to design stage sets for Tread.
  • 1970 - Taught at University of California, Irvine
  • 1972 - First solo museum exhibition, Bruce Nauman: Work from 1965 to 1972
  • 1979 - Completes sculpture "Studio Piece"
  • 1982 - "Bruce Nauman: Neons" is organized by the Baltimore Museum of Art
  • 1985 - Makes his first videotape since 1973. Good Boy Bad Boy
  • 1989 - Marries artist Susan Rothenberg
  • 1993 - Receives Wolf Prize in Arts-Sculpture, Herzlia, Israel

Select Exhibitions

  • 1968 - Untitled, Daros Exhibitions, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 1968 - "Bruce Nauman," Leo Castelli Gallery, 4 East 77th Street, New York
  • 1972-1974 - "Bruce Nauman: Work from 1965 to 1972," Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • 1981 - "Bruce Nauman, 1972-1981," Rijksmuseum Kroller-Muller, Otterlo, Netherlands
  • 1982-1983 - "Bruce Nauman: Neons," The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD
  • 1983 - "Bruce Nauman: Dream Passage, Stadium Piece, Musical Chairs-Drei neue Arbeiten," Museum Haus Esters, Krefeld, West Germany
  • 1985 - Having Fun/Good Life/Symptoms, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • 1986-1987 - "Bruce Nauman," Kunsthalle Basel, 13 July-7 September; ARC, Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
  • 1986-1988 - "Bruce Nauman: Drawings/Zeichnungen, 1965-1986," Museum fur Gegenwartskunst, Basel
  • 1987 - Clown Torture, Art Institute of Chicago
  • 1993-1995 - "Bruce Nauman," (Retrospective) Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid
  • 1997-1999 - "Bruce Nauman: Image/Text, 1966-1996," Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany
  • 2000 - "Samuel Beckett/Bruce Nauman," Kunsthalle Wien Karlsplatz, Vienna
  • 2001 - "Bruce Nauman, Selected Works," Zwirner & Wirth, New York
  • 2002 - "Bruce Nauman, Mapping the Studio I (Fat Chance John Cage)," DIA Center for the Arts, New York
  • 2003-2004 - "Bruce Nauman: Theaters of Experience," Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin
  • 2004 - "Bruce Nauman: Setting a Good Corner (Allegory & Metaphor)," Power House Memphis,Tennessee
  • 2005 - "Pay Attention: Bruce Nauman Videos from the Collection of Barbara Balkin Cottle and Robert Cottle," Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
  • 2007 - A Rose Has No Teeth: Bruce Nauman in the 1960s, UC Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive

Select Artwork

  • "Laair," [1970], A soft-cover "book," considered to be a piece of art rather than a book, featuring only 10 color illustrations [photographs] of the Los Angeles skyline...no text
  • Clown Torture
  • Vices and Virtues - 1988
  • 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
  • NO NO - 1983
  • Double Sized Head on Hand (Three Sheets) - 1989

Select Awards and Honors

  • 1968 - NEA Grant, Artistic Fellowship Award, Washington, D. C.
  • 1970 - Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies Grant, Colorado
  • 1986 - Skowhegan Award, Skowhegan, Maine
  • 1989 - Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, San Francisco Art Institute, California
  • 1990 - Max Beckmann Prize, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • 1993 - Alumni Citation for Excellence, University of California, Davis, California
  • 1994 - The Wexner Prize, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
  • 1995 - Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • 1997 - Member, Akademie der Kunste, Berlin, Germany
  • 1999 - Leone d'oro (The Golden Lion) 48th Venice Biennale, Italy
  • 2000 - Honorary Doctor of Arts, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California
  • 2004 - Beaux-Arts Magazine Art Awards: Best International Artist, Paris

Select News Items

Bruce Nauman wins Praemium Imperiale Award
  • 7 June 2004 - The American artist Bruce Nauman was named a winner yesterday of a $135,000 Praemium Imperiale award for sculpture. Other winners of the awards, given annually by the Japan Arts Association to recognize lifetime achievement in arts categories not recognized by the Nobel Prizes, were Georg Baselitz of Germany for painting, Oscar Niemeyer of Brazil for architecture, Krzysztof Penderecki of Poland for music and Abbas Kiarostami of Iran for film. In addition, the Young Sound Forum of Central Europe, a contemporary-music orchestra, was awarded a $45,000 Grant for Young Artists.

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