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May 27 2009 4 27 /05 /May /2009 11:20


After Ed Ruscha and Felix Gonzalez-Torres, the renown artist Bruce Nauman has been chosen to represent United States at the 53rd Venice Biennale.

Organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, “Topological gardens” will be on view across three prominent locations in Venice: the U.S. Pavilion at the Giardini della Biennale; Università Iuav di Venezia at Tolentini; and the Exhibition Spaces at Università Ca' Foscari. It showcases the main creation process of Bruce Nauman’s life, with works rarely displayed in Europe, from the late 60’s till nowadays, with videos, installations, performances, sculpture and of course, his famous neon sculptures. Also, we will have the chance to discover two new sound installations.

The topic of “topological gardens”, which refers to the examination of the continuity of space among changing condition, perfectly fits with the environment of the exhibition and the history of Nauman.

Born in 1941 at Fort Wayne, Indiana, Nauman started by studying mathematics and physics, he joined a bit later art studies. In 1968, he met the singer and performer artist Meredith Monk, who will be a major influence for his career: indeed, he first elaborated works surrounding interrogations about his own body, mostly through the medium of performance. Quite violent, the viewer could face the own body of Nauman cut into pieces, limbs dislocated etc. His art was wiling to provoke, and unsettle, through sensations, the viewer. Later on, always it this same provocation, it is language that he started playing with, also by cutting into parts. Texts of the German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein were a one of his source of inspiration for the manipulation of language and an interrogation on the role of art. Sharp neon sculptures with alphabetic letters appeared at that time, its production increased in the 70’s 80’s, combined with provocative sexual situations, also with animals. 
In the 90’s, Nauman came back to the topic of his own body.
It is rare to be in presence of an artist who gathers two art fields, which seems opposites by the manipulation of words and flesh: conceptual minimalism and body art / performance. Thus, we can understand why he is today considered as a major influence for this recent shift in much international artistic practice toward conceptual and performative uses of language and the body.

Does "Toplogical garden" come back the mathematics and physics studies of the artists ? Until June 7th, the question remains open. But what is certain is that this pavilion will be both the occasion to discover Nauman’s artworks never seen in Europe, and understand a new part of history of art.

Carlos Basualdo, the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Curator of Contemporary Art, and Michael R. Taylor, the Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art, of the Philadelphia Museum of Art are the exhibition's U.S. Commissioners.


[Visual : Bruce NAUMAN  “The true artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths”1967 neon sign]


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