Bruce Nauman at Tate Modern

Bruce Nauman  
Falls, Pratfalls and Sleights of Hand (Clean Version)  1993  
Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg  
© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020  

This autumn, Tate Modern will present the first exhibition to show the full breadth of work by Bruce Nauman (b.1941) in London for more than 20 years. A restlessly inventive artist, Nauman’s ground-breaking body of work encompasses a range of media including sculpture, sound, film, video and neon. Since the late 1960s, he has continually tested and reinvented what an artwork can be by reshaping traditional forms and creating new ones. He is now widely recognised as one of the most innovative and influential artists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Bruce Nauman 
Black Marble Under Yellow Light 1987 
Light installation and black marble blocks 
380 x 5000 x 6000 mm 
“la Caixa” Collection. Contemporary Art © Nacho López 
© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020  

Through more than 40 works, the exhibition will explore the distinctive themes that have preoccupied Nauman during his remarkable 50-year career. Unfolding across a sequence of immersive installations inviting deep viewer engagement, the show will acknowledge how Nauman’s works contrast the instant gratification of today’s screen-based information and entertainment culture. It will also reveal how Nauman has transformed the way we think about art by exploring our understanding of language and perception of our physical and psychological place in the world.

Bruce Nauman  Clown Torture 1987 
Four channel video with sound (two projections, four monitors), approx one-hour loop 
The Art Institute of Chicago, Watson F. Blair Prize, Wilson L. Mead, and Twentieth-Century Purchase funds; through prior gift of Joseph Winterbotham; gift of Lannan Foundation, 1997.162 
© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020  

Following a non-chronological structure, the opening room will present visitors with MAPPING THE STUDIO II with color shift, flip, flop & flip/flop (Fat Chance John Cage) 2001, a major moving-image installation that embodies Nauman’s radical re-examination of the rarefied space of the artist’s studio. A selection of early and iconic artworks such as Henry Moore Bound to Fail 1967/70 and A Cast of the Space Under My Chair 1965/68 will highlight Nauman’s conceptual and often performative approach towards sculpture, the body and studio practice.

Bruce Nauman 
A True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (Window or Wall Sign)  1967 
Neon tubing with clear glass tubing suspension frame 
1499 x 1397 x 51 mm 
Kunstmuseum Basel, photo: Martin P Bühler 
© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020  


Inspired by a chance encounter with a neon advertisement left over in his San Francisco studio, Nauman created several ground-breaking neon signs that combine text and colour to reveal the ambiguities beneath everyday phrases and expressions. A number of outstanding examples will be brought together for this exhibition, including The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truth (Window or Wall Sign) 1967, Human Nature Knows/Doesn’t Know 1983/86 and One Hundred Live and Die 1984.

Bruce Nauman  
Anthro / Socio (Rinde Spinning) 1992 
Colour, sound, six video-disc, NTSC, loop Dimensions variable
© Hamburger Kunsthalle / bpk © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, photo: Kay Riechers to: Christoph Irrgang  
© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020 

Large-scale works such as Going Around the Corner Piece with Live and Taped Monitors 1970 and Double Steel Cage Piece 1974 reflect Nauman’s interest in surveillance and societal control. These themes extend to the whole-room installation Shadow Puppets and Instructed Mime 1990 in which suspended wax heads, sound and video, provide a backdrop as a disembodied male voice gives commands to a female mime projected onto the walls. One of Nauman’s most aurally and conceptually powerful works Anthro/Socio (Rinde Spinning) 1992 reveals how Nauman consistently challenges the conventions of the gallery experience and confronts viewers directly with their own physical presence. Black Marble Under Yellow Light 1981/1988 provides an encounter with Nauman’s unsettling manipulation of space and light, while Falls, Pratfalls and Sleights of Hand (Clean Version) 1993, the final room in the show, acknowledges the themes of bodily presence and human perception that have engaged Nauman throughout his career.

Bruce Nauman 
Walking in an Exaggerated Manner Around the Perimeter of a Square 1967–1968 
16mm film on video, projected, black and white, sound 

Bruce Nauman is organised by Tate Modern and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in collaboration with Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan. The exhibition is curated by Andrea Lissoni, former Senior Curator (International Art), Film, Tate Modern, Nicholas Serota, former Director, Tate and Leontine Coelewij, Curator Contemporary Art and Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, former Curator Contemporary Art Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam with Katy Wan, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern. It will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue from Tate Publishing.

Bruce Nauman 
Good Boy Bad Boy 1985 
Video, 2 monitors, colour and audio (mono)  60 min, 52sec  Tate: Purchased 1994 
© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020  

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