Home Magazine Bruce Nauman: Disappearing Acts at MoMA New York

With a quarter of a century of work under his belt, Bruce Nauman (Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1941) at the age of 76 years old is a living legend. Several exhibitions have been made on his behalf. Recently he had a huge retrospective this summer during Art Basel 2018 inside the Schaulager Museum, with an extraordinary body of works acquired since the Seventies.

Now his next appointment is in February 2019 with Bruce Nauman:Disappearing Acts at The MoMA in New York, an exhibition of similar dimensions to the Schaulager retrospective, bearing in mind that the museum already has 8o of his works in their own collection and hosted another important show in 1995, curated as always by Kathy Halbreich (together with Neal Benezra). If you love neon works take a glance here: Cristiano TassinariIlaria ForliniMassimo UbertiMarco Lodola

On this New York stage, the installations are divided between the sixth floor of the MoMA in Manhattan and the MoMA PS1, in Queens. They include videos, installations, drawings, sculptures, photographs, environments, holograms, and the famous neons that are quite literally Nauman’s signature. But also some live performances guarantee an accurate portrayal of the practice of this artist, somebody who always moves with extreme freedom between different media and means of expression.


Bruce Nauman, American, born 1941- Double Poke in the Eye II, 1985


Thanks to the thematic organization of the works it is possible track the recurrence of some key concepts over the decades. Indeed, the exhibition is a journey through Nauman's long career, and we are invited to learn about explorations and recognize consistency within a body of apparently heterogeneous work. Kathy Halbreich stated:


We had to give up a chronological sense to highlight the thematic recurrences over the years. Each plan has its own narrative and its intrinsic intentionality.


The part hosted on the MoMA floor is focused on a large-scale works, environmental installations, and architecture created for exploring individual and collective perceptions and consciousness. Among other works, here is located the famous installation Kassel's Corridor: Elliptical space, created by Nauman for the fifth edition of Documenta Kassel, in 1972: two curved walls and a corridor strictly accessible for only one guest at a time. The work, incredibly current despite its almost fifty years, brings into play voyeurism and protection of privacy, stimulating, and at the same time frustrating, a desire to see and hide.


Bruce Nauman- Disappearing Acts, 17 March to 26 August 2018, Schaulager® Münchenstein


One hundred years ago (1984) invests the viewer in a hypnotic alternation of words that, while describing actions, evoke and stimulate mental ascents contained in the life of dichotomy / death (presence / absence). The last large room in this part of the exhibition hosts Days, an audio installation from 2009 that immerses the visitor in a sound corridor, invisible and imperceptible, but impressive and impossible to ignore, produced by the repetition of words pronounced with various intonations and voices of several timbres. Don't miss the opportunity to see what's happening in the art world, see our area dedicated to the museum exhibitions!

On the other side of the East River, inside the PS1, 115 works occupy almost all the spaces of the MoMA branch office. With an articulated and labyrinthine morphology of the spaces, PS1 lends itself particularly well to Nauman’s complex and articulated work. If the geometries of the large exhibition spaces on the sixth floor of the MoMA allow the larger works to interact with the space more naturally, the PS1 creates a maze where the viewer moves between experiences, meeting with a surprise at each turn. If the immersion in the space of the MoMA is environmental, here the immersion is in the work itself, with the aim to experience the artworks in a private and intensive way. The installation explores the fragmented dimension of the space very well, and offer to the visitor the possibility of building his own route through the exhibition. One of the first environments of the exhibition itinerary proposes a succession of variations on the theme of the artist's body, in the works Contrapposto Studies (video, 2015-16), in dialogue with Contrapposto Split (3D projection, 2017). Both works were realized by the artist in the begging of his career.


Art make up, 1967, Bruce Nauman / Expo Bacon Nauman face à face, musée Fabre, Montpellier.


At its center is Nauman's body that makes small and useless gestures in his half-empty study. The body of 2017 appears immediately different from the body of '68, but the repetition and the absence are the same. "Compared to the Nauman of the Nineties," said Halbreich, "we are dealing with an older man who courageously recognizes that he is aged, who honestly makes his ancient body visible. Today his work moves on a wider emotional spectrum. In the past, Nauman has been criticized for being aggressive and screaming, today he has become more meditative ".

Opposed Split is, among other things, one of the two works created by the artist specifically for this exhibition. The other one is the one that closes the exposition of the PS1, in one of the few large rooms of the old school of Queens. Leaping Foxes (2018), a monumental composition of head-down deer bitten by foxes. It is a work that recalls another recurring theme in Nauman's work, embalmed animals, often used to evoke brutality within a spectrum of nature / culture in which the artist does not offer easy positions. It is perhaps in this freedom of interpretation, where it is at the same time required (demanded) the active involvement of the viewer, which is the greatness of Nauman's work.

While proposing a vision that is always and clearly critical of the world, Nauman does not impose his own reading, but asks the public to pay attention, to complete the work with their active involvement. As one of Nauman's most famous works reads, "Pay Attention Mother Fuckers". In this exhibition, the spaces of the PS1 reinforce and broaden the feeling that the viewer can not remain as such, but must take an active part in the experience of fruition. It is a message that crosses Nauman's work from the early years of his career to today and which becomes even more relevant in our contemporary society, as overexposed as it is distracted, and in an America that too often looks but does not see. 


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