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.”
A central figure of 1970s art and pioneer in the development of Post-Minimal art, Nauman’s greatest contribution is perhaps his self-analytic investigations of the creative mind and its doubts concerning the production of art. “If I was an artist and I was in the studio, then whatever I was doing in the studio must be art,” he once remarked. “At this point, art became more of an activity and less of a product.”
Born in Fort Wayne, IN, Nauman studied mathematics at the University of Wisconsin before shifting his focus to art, going on to receive his MFA from the University of California and study under William T. Wiley. In 1964, he gave up painting to dedicate himself to sculpture, performance and cinema collaborations with William Allan and Robert Nelson. He worked as an assistant to Wayne Thiebaud. Since the mid-1980s, he has primarily worked with sculpture and neon, developing disturbing psychological and physical themes incorporating images of animal and human body parts, depicting sadistic allusions to games and torture together with themes of surveillance. Nauman holds honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees from the San Francisco Art Institute and the California Institute of the Arts. In 1993, he was awarded the Wolf Prize for his distinguished work as a sculptor and his extraordinary contribution to 20th Century art. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in 2004 by Time Magazine. The United States 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. He has participated in the 1977, 1985, 1987, 1991, and 1997 Whitney Biennales. His work can be found in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois; the New Mexico Museum of Art, New Mexico, the Walker Art Museum, Minnesota; Kunstmuseum Basel, Germany; Museum Brandhorst, Munich, Germany; and Tate Modern, London, among others.