In the mid-1960s, having first studied mathematics and physics, and then art, Bruce Nauman became involved with the art scene in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Throughout his career, Nauman has investigated who we are, physically and mentally, using the human body and the space it inhabits. His own body became an important tool and reference point, whether performing in videos, or being cast to form part of a sculpture. Using self-imposed limitations and systems, he exposes the body’s vulnerability, as well as the human potential for violence and our need to communicate.
Words are both the subject and the form of many of Nauman’s works. Through thought-provoking wordplay, his neon pieces and works on paper cast new light on everyday phrases. Sound and the human voice are also significant aspects of his artistic approach, be it using his own voice or employing actors to perform unsettling and humorous scenarios. Disrupting the traditionally quiet space of the gallery, Nauman wants the experience of his work to be: ‘like getting hit in the face with a baseball bat. Or better, like getting hit in the back of the neck. You never see it coming; it just knocks you down.’