Bruce Nauman (b. 1941, Fort Wayne, IN; lives and works in New Mexico) is one of the most preeminent conceptual video, sound, installation, and neon artists working today. Nauman’s influence on contemporary art is immeasurable; younger generations of artists have founded their practices upon concepts first explored and tested by Nauman beginning in the early 1960s. It is difficult to suggest a common, central theme shared by his entire body of work, but “Nauman does circle around a fundamental problem: the experience, in one’s environment, architecture, language or body, of being controlled. He subjects himself, his artistic collaborators and his viewers to disturbing experiments in surveillance; he makes us participants in art that is hectoring, aggressive, buttonholing and violent, and fills us with a sense of complicity.” His video, sound, text-based, and installation works featuring such subjects as the artist himself bouncing a ball within a square outline on the studio floor or walking through a narrow corridor while assuming the contrapposto form, a rat-filled maze, a date gone violently wrong, a humiliated mime, or an abject clown, force the viewers to insert themselves into the work, inducing strong, visceral reactions. “In its exploration of control, discipline and torture, and a linguistic world riddled with pat phrases and evacuated of all meaning, the experience his work induces can be awful, nauseating, horrifying.” Nauman leaves it up to his viewers to decide their tolerance levels for the abject; this forced self-reflection causes us to “Pay Attention” – which is, fittingly, the title of one of his early 1970s lithographs and one of his artistic goals.
Currently on view at the Tate Modern in London, from October 7, 2021 – February 21, 2021, is the first European Nauman retrospective in over 20 years.
A journey through the ground-breaking works of this quintessential contemporary artist
Nauman’s work has been the subject of several major retrospectives since the 1970s: a 1994 retrospective traveled from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., and in 1995, the Museum of Modern Art in New York hosted another major exhibition. More recently, the same Museum of Modern Art, along with MoMA P.S.1 and Schaulauger, organized a retrospective in late 2018 which was on view until early 2019.
"Tate Modern, London
Featuring funny walks, shouting, inertia, banality, sex, detritus and an abject clown, this retrospective of the pioneering video artist’s career is a disturbing thrill"
2015 Bruce Nauman, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris
Bruce Nauman, Friedrich Kiesler Stiftung, Vienna
2013 Bruce Nauman: Some Illusions – Drawings and Videos, Sperone Westwater, New York
2010 Bruce Nauman: Dream Passage, Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, Germany
Bruce Nauman: Days, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Bruce Nauman: For Children/For Beginners, Sperone Westwater, New York
2009 Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens, United States Exhibition of the 53rd Venice Biennale, United States Pavilion at the Giardini della Biennale, Venice, Italy (travelling)
2007-08 A Rose Has No Teeth: Bruce Nauman in the 1960s, University of California, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA (travelling)
Featured ArtworkViolent Incident - Man/Woman Segment (Parkett Deluxe Edition No. 10)
Signed and numbered "B Nauman 132/200" on a label affixed to the VHS cassette. This work is number 132 from an edition of 200.
 Nikil Saval, “Bruce Nauman, The Artist’s Artist”, New York Times, October 15, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/15/t-magazine/bruce-nauman-art-interview.html (accessed October 8, 2020).