Bruce Nauman is one of the most influential artists of his generation. Since the 1960s, his work across sculpture, sound, installation, film, and video has questioned the very nature of what constitutes art and being an artist, probed the possibilities of the body as a subject and tool for performance, and explored the relationship between language and meaning. Born in 1941 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Nauman studied at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the University of California, Davis. After graduate school, he occupied a storefront studio in the space of an old grocery store in San Francisco. There, an old neon beer sign served as inspiration for Nauman’s celebrated neon The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (Window or Wall Sign), which the Museum acquired in 2007. The artist’s first solo debut in New York was at the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1968, and his first major museum survey was coorganized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1972. In 1994 a traveling retrospective of Nauman’s work as well as a catalogue raisonné were organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, in association with the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. Following the presentation of Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens as the official US entry to the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009, Nauman’s two new sound works produced in concert with that project, Days and Giorni, had their United States premiere at the Museum. Nauman lives in New Mexico with his wife, artist Susan Rothenberg.
Bruce Nauman at the US Pavilion in Venice, Italy, in 2009 when the Philadelphia Museum of Art organized Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens as the official US entry to the 53rd Venice Biennale. Photo by Michele Lamanna