bruce nauman: 'topological gardens' at the venice art biennale 09 bruce nauman: 'topological gardens' at the venice art biennale 09
jun 12, 2009

bruce nauman: 'topological gardens' at the venice art biennale 09

the entrance of the US pavilion where bruce nauman’s ‘vices and virtues’, 1983-1988 is installed image © designboom

approaching the US pavilion, you are greeted by bruce nauman’s landmark outdoor neon sign ‘vices and virtues’, with words such as ‘fortitude’ and ‘anger’, ‘justice’ and ‘avarice’. flashing interchangeably, the words extend around the entire perimeter of the building. hidden along the side of the pavilion, in a dark area of shrubs and bushes, nauman’s ‘the true artist helps the world by reveling mystic truths (window or wall sign)’ is illuminated. a contrasting juxtaposition of brightly flashing lights, against the neo-classical architecture of the venue. a large window on the side of the building allows visitors to peer into the exhibition space, with his art occupying the rest of the space as a volume as opposed to a two-dimensional façade. within the building, his sculptural and video work is exhibited.

the presentation of bruce nauman’s ‘topological gardens’ at the venice art biennale has been organized by the philadelphia museum of art in collaboration with the artist. the exhibition presents more than 30 of the artist’s works, lent from public and private collections, some of which the artist has adapted and redeveloped specifically for venice.

bruce nauman has won the golden lion for best national pavilion at this year’s biennale.

‘fortitude’ flashing alternately with ‘anger’ image © designboom‘temperance’ and ‘gluttony’ image © designboom

‘justice’ and ‘avrice’ / ‘envy’ and ‘hope’ image © designboom

image © designboom

the flashing neon words wrap around the building image © designboom

‘the true artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths (window or wall sign)’ hidden on the side of the pavilion image © designboom

one has to pass through some trees and bushes to view this workimage © designboom

‘three heads fountain (juliet, andrew, rinde)’, 2005 made from epoxy resin and fiberglass, wire, clear hoses, immersible pump, rubber lined basin, water image © designboom

two sets of heads act like fountains, spouting water into a large basin of water image © designboom

image © designboom

‘double poke in the eye II’, 1985 made from neon tubing on aluminum monolith image © designboom

the comical ‘double poke in the eye II’, has the flashing neon profiles of two people poking each other in the eye.

sequences of eye poking image © designboom

more eye poking action image © designboom

‘fifteen pairs of hands’, 1996 white bronze, painted steel bases image © designboom

fifteen pairs of hands, interact with one another, like a forest of hand gestures.

touching fingertips image © designboom

interlocking hands image © designboom

image © designboom

‘four pairs of heads (wax)’, 1991 wax, resin, rebar and wire image © designboom

a mobile of four pairs of hanging heads, are arranged in unusual ways, with odd facial expressions.

each head is cast in wax image © designboom

an upclose look at the facial expressions seen on the hanging heads image © designboom

‘five pink heads in the corner’, 1992 epoxy resin and fiberglass image © designboom

in one corner, five pink heads are stacked one upon the another. once you approach the heads further and catch a glimpse of their profile, each individual head is sticking its tongue out into the corner of the room.

‘hanging carousel (george skins a fox)’, 1988 color video monitor installation (with sound), video player, motor, steel and polyurethane foam image © designboom

a large carousel in which the form of four unidentifiable animals and a video monitor hang down, rotate around a room. on the screen, a man named george is seen skinning a fox with his bare hands. the polyurethane animals on the carousel speak of the real animal which is being skinned on screen.

an unusual creature image © designboom

image © designboom

the hanging ‘skinned’ forms, are reminscent of a butcher’s shop image © designboom

a video of man named george skinning a fox, is played on the video monitor image © designboom

image © designboom

bruce nauman (born 1941) is often cited as a catalyst for the recent shift in much international artistic practice toward conceptual and performative uses of language and the body. nauman’s video, installation, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, photography and neon lighting, engage mundane situations and interpersonal communication, only to subvert them through paradoxical visual and linguistic manipulation.

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