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Disappearing Acts. Bruce Nauman, the living artist par excellence, at MoMA

“I’ve always had overlapping ways of going about my work,” Bruce Nauman once remarked. “I’ve never been able to stick to one thing.” For more than 50 years, he has worked in every conceivable artistic medium, dissolving established genres and inventing new ones in the process. His expanded notion of sculpture admits wax casts and neon signs, bodily contortions and immersive video environments. Coming of age amid the political and social upheavals of the 1960s, Nauman never adhered to rigid distinctions between the arts, but rather has staked his career on “investigating the possibilities of what art may be.”

The artist has spent half a century inventing forms to convey both the moral hazards and the thrill of being alive. Employing a tremendous range of materials and working methods, he reveals how mutable experiences of time, space, movement, and language provide an unstable foundation for understanding our place in the world. For Nauman, both making and looking at art involve “doing things that you don’t particularly want to do, putting yourself in unfamiliar situations, following resistances to find out why you’re resisting.” At a time when the notion of truth feels increasingly under attack, his work compels viewers to relinquish the safety of the familiar, keeping us alert, ever vigilant, and wary of being seduced by easy answers.

Nauman’s art has always defied categorization. Delicate watercolors, flashing neon signs, sound installations, video corridors — he is constantly shifting between all these and more, never conforming to a signature style. But underneath this sheer variety, crucial themes persist, and disappearance has been one such recurring impulse over his 50-year career.

Disappearing Acts traces what Nauman has called “withdrawal as an art form” — both literal and figurative incidents of removal, deflection, and concealment. Bodies are fragmented, centers are left empty, voices emanate from hidden speakers, and the artist sculpts himself in absentia, appearing only as negative space. The retrospective charts these forms of omission and loss across media and throughout the decades, following Nauman as he circles back to earlier concerns with new urgency. 

Presented in two complementary parts, at The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1, this is the most comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s work ever assembled.


Bruce Nauman: Disappearing Acts 

The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA
11 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019

MoMA PS1
22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101

October 21, 2018 – February 25, 2019 


https://www.moma.org/

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01. Human Nature/Life Death/Knows Doesn’t Know, 1983.
© 2018 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

02. All Thumbs, 1996.
© 2018 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Photo courtesy the artist and Sperone Westwater, New York

03. Carousel (Stainless Steel Version), 1988.
© 2018 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Photo courtesy Courtesy Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (photographer unknown)

04. Contrapposto Studies, i through vii, 2015/16.
© 2018 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Photo courtesy the artist and Sperone Westwater, New York

05. Corridor Installation (Nicholas Wilder), 1970.
© 2018 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Photo courtesy Friedrich Christian Flick Collection im Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin

06. Still from Bruce Nauman. Green Horses, 1988. 
© 2018 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Photo: Ron Amstutz

07. Light Trap for Henry Moore, No. 1, 1967.
© 2018 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Photo: Alex Jamison

08. My Last Name Exaggerated Fourteen Times Vertically, 1967.
© 2018 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Photo: Tim Nighswander/ Imaging4Art.com

09. Neon Templates of the Left Half of My Body Taken at Ten-Inch Intervals, 1966. © 2018 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Photo: Andy Romer Photography, courtesy of the Glass House, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

10. One Hundred Live and Die, 1984.
© 2018 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Photo: Dorothy Zeidman, courtesy the artist and Sperone Westwater, New York

11. White Anger, Red Danger, Yellow Peril, Black Death, 1984. 
© 2018 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Digital image © 2018 The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Photo: Jonathan Muzikar

12. Model for Trench and Four Buried Passages, 1977.
© 2018 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York