Bruce Nauman | the artist




The artist Bruce Nauman
Born Dec 6 1941, Fort Wayne Indiana, USA.
Lives and works in Galisteo, New Mexico.

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Bruce Nauman
One Hundred Fish Fountain is comprised of 97 fish, cast in bronze, which hang by wires from a suspended metal grid.   Water, from a large basin on the floor, is pumped through clear tubing to the fish and sprays out of the their bodies in all directions from hundreds of randomly punctured holes.   The fountain runs on a scheduled timer so that the viewer witnesses the jolting sound and movement as the fish fill with water as well as the silence when the pumps are turned off followed by the water slowly trickling out of each fish.   In a second gallery are two fountains entitled 3 Heads Fountain (3 Andrews) and 3 Heads Fountain (Juliet, Andrew, Rinde) each of which consists of three epoxy resin and fiberglass heads wired together with water spraying from the many holes.  
Within each of the fountains there is a sense of violence and violation.   The fish are removed from their natural habitat, cast in bronze and punctured with holes.   The harsh treatment of these fish is reminiscent of Nauman’s skinned animal series from the late 1980s.   The intense noise of the water splashing in the basin, paired with the visual enormity of the 97 fish and the thickness of the humid air creates a multi-sensory experience that is both aggressive and overpowering.
The sight of the fish connected to water pumps, almost like an IV, is surreal and beautiful at the same time.   This analogy in terms of an IV and hose is made even more apparent with the severed head fountains where it is as if vital liquid is being pumped into the heads only to escape once again through the punctured holes.   When stopped, the dripping water has a powerful reference to the human condition and a feeling of loss.   The heads were first seen in Nauman’s work in 1989.
The idea of the fountain dates back to his early work of the 1960s such as Self-Portrait as a Fountain and more recently in the early 1990s with a fountain made of cast bronze foxes.   The reference of the fish dates back to Nauman’s early film piece from 1966 Fishing for an Asian Carp but also refers to personal memories of the artist growing up in the Midwest and fishing with his father on Lake Michigan.   From this, came his choice of using only fresh water fish from the lake: salmon; whitefish; bass and catfish.

Bruce Nauman
In the closed-circuit installation «Live/Taped Video Corridor», a study from the Performance Corridor work group, Nauman set two monitors above one another at the end of a corridor almost ten meters long and only 50 cm wide. The lower monitor features a videotape of the corridor…

Bruce Nauman interview
Being awarded the Golden Lion for the best National Pavilion only confirmed that Bruce Nauman is the star of the 2009 Venice Biennale. With his triumphant exhibition in the Giardini as well as his shows at two other sites in the city, he has finally been granted the attention he so richly deserves. This is not a display of new work – there are only two new pieces, a remaking of an earlier performance work and a new sound piece (in Italian and English), but these, placed alongside a carefully selected body of older works, give the audience an overview of the artist’s long and distinguished career which spans more than 40 years…

Bruce Nauman in the MOMA
Bruce Nauman was born in 1941 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. During his undergraduate schooling at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Nauman initially studied mathematics and physics before changing his focus to studio art under the tutelage of Italo Scanga, among others. Nauman then pursued an M.F.A. at the University of California, Davis, where faculty artists such as Wayne Thiebaud, William T. Wiley, and Robert Arneson supported his growing desire to investigate art making beyond his earlier abstract paintings. There he experimented with casting objects in fiberglass and polyester resin, leaving their surfaces unrefined to reflect the casting process. While at Davis, Nauman also staged his first two performances, utilizing a fluorescent tube as an extension of his body as he performed mundane actions, which he would later record on video…

Bruce Nauman
Works in the TATE collection



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