Friday, December 16, 2011

Run From Fear, Fun From Rear



I think that the point where language starts to break down as a useful tool for communication is the same edge where poetry and art occur. (B. Nauman)

Nauman was born on December 6, 1941 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He studied mathematics and music, then art, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and took a degree in Fine Arts at the University of California, Davis (1960-66). In 1964 he gave up painting to dedicate himself to sculpture, performance and cinema collaborations with William Allan and Robert Nelson. He grew interested in Samuel Beckett’s works, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy, and the musical experimentations of John Cage, Philip Glass, La Monte Young, Meredith Monk. Between 1966 and 1970 he made several videos, in which he used his body to explore the potentials of art and the role of the artist, and to investigate psychological states and behavioural codes. His production ranges from fibreglass sculptures or neon tubes to photography and drawing. He never developed a specific style, though, since he considered art as an activity or an action and not as a product. Nauman used irony and puns to reveal the ambiguous nature of language and to examine the way human beings communicate of fail to communicate. After his solo exhibition at the Nicholas Wilder Gallery of Los Angeles in 1966, he started a collaboration with gallery managers Leo Castelli in New York and Konrad Fischer in Düsseldorf (1968). In 1968 he was invited to Documenta 4 in Kassel and, having received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, he stayed in New York for a year. In 1972 he held his first solo show in a museum, organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and by the Whitney Museum of American Art of New York. In 1979 he moved to a ranch near Galisteo, New Mexico, where he raised horses. The artist’s research until the mid-1980s was focused on psychological and physical conditions, and earned him several prizes and a new travelling exhibition organized by the Walker Art Center of Minneapolis (1993-95). In 2001 he executed the installation Mapping the Studio, inspired by the daily life at his studio, while Setting a Good Corner took its cue from the everyday life at the ranch. After winning the Golden Lion at the 48th Venice Biennial in 1999, in 2004 he received the Praemium Imperiale for sculpture. That same year for London’s Tate Modern he executed Raw Materials in which 22 spoken texts taken from existing works become a means to mould the acoustic space of the Turbine Hall. 29 historic works by Nauman have recently been restored thanks to the Preservation Program of the Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) of New York.


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