Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens, the official United States representation at the 53rd International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, will explore thematically the work of one of the most influential living American artists. Organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art
, the exhibition will underscore recurrent themes in Naumans extraordinary 40-year career with works shown across three prominent locations in Venice: the U.S. Pavilion at the Giardini della Biennale; Università Iuav di Venezia at Tolentini; and the Exhibition Spaces at Università Ca Foscari.
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State (ECA) led the selection process for the artist who will represent the U.S. at the Biennale. Following a recommendation by the Federal Advisory Committee on International Exhibitions, ECA selected Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens. The International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, established in 1895, is one of the most prestigious international events in the field of contemporary art.
The exhibition will offer a thematic view of the work that Nauman has produced over the past four decades, including video, installation, performance, sculpture, and neon. The presentation will also include seminal works by Nauman, a number of which have seldom, if ever, been seen in Europe, and will premiere a new sound installation by the artist. The exhibition is structured around the notion of topologya field in mathematics that examines the continuity of space amid changing conditionswhich is used to understand the artists work as well as the context in which it will be displayed. Nauman has used the concept of topology many times to describe the themes and methods of his practice. By focusing on topology as a key to consider his work and the urban structure of Venice, the exhibition will enable visitors to experience one in relation to the other while productively interrogating the idea of the national pavilion.
By extending the presentation beyond the U.S. Pavilion, which traditionally hosts the Biennales U.S. representation, the exhibition will resonate with Naumans investigations into the nature and the boundaries of public and private spaces. This extension also ensures that a more diverse audience, mainly students and younger people who might not visit the Biennale, will experience first-hand, the work of one of the most accomplished living American artists. Making U.S. culture more accessible to a broader international public is a major objective of American public diplomacy.
Our intention from the beginning was to explore the vast and varied terrain of Naumans oeuvre, and to examine it in the Venetian context, using the notion of the national pavilion as a point of departure. We developed partnerships with other institutions, such as the universities, so that the presentation could interlace Naumans work with the urban structure of the city, said U.S. Commissioner Carlos Basualdo, the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Curator of Contemporary Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The Museum pursued its partnerships with the Università Iuav di Venezia and Università Ca Foscari, two of Venices premier academic institutions, in part to enable thousands of Venetian students to engage fully with Naumans work, while at the same time encouraging Biennale visitors to explore the urban fabric of Venice beyond the Giardini. At the Università Iuav di Venezia, Naumans works will be installed in the schools main building, located in the cloisters of the former Tolentini convent near Piazzale Roma. The exhibition will also occupy the exhibition spaces of Ca Foscari, two floors of a 15th-century gothic palace, prominently situated on the Grand Canal. In the Giardini, Naumans works across various mediums will fill the neoclassical building of the U.S. Pavilion, emphasizing its architectural volume and features
Bruce Nauman has fundamentally altered our conception of artistic practice and identity. We are excited to have this opportunity, as the Biennale provides the perfect venue in which to explore and contextualize his radical ideas within the history of Modern and Contemporary art, said U.S. Commissioner Michael R. Taylor, the Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Rector Carlo Magnani of the Università Iuav di Venezia commented that the exhibition is an important event both to redefine the relations between the Biennale and the city in a significant and innovative way and to bring contemporary art to places of study where it will be primarily in direct contact with a younger generation of students. For a university like the Università Iuav di Venezia that is fully devoted to project-based learning in all of its iterations, Naumans constant experimentation with expressive forms that profoundly reconfigure the viewers perception of space represents an exceptional educational opportunity. The beneficial and productive collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art is another proven example of the capability of the Venetian institutions to restore to Venice a significant role in the debate, education and production of contemporary art.
Pier Francesco Ghetti, the Rector of the Università Ca Foscari, remarked that the exhibition is an initiative of international relevance, which will involve professors, doctoral candidates, and graduate students of our houses of study; and it will reaffirm the synergies in contemporary art among the Università Ca Foscari, the Università Iuav di Venezia, and other important Venetian institutions. The Ca Foscari not only is a spacious and prestigious location in the heart of the Grand Canal, but it is also an educational laboratory in which artists can experiment with new forms and ideas and where our students can be involved in the artistic culture of our time.
Bruce Nauman (b. 1941, Fort Wayne, Indiana) is regarded as one of the most innovative artists of his generation and 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. In work encompassing video, installation, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and neon, Nauman continually engages mundane situations and interpersonal communication, only to subvert them through paradoxical visual and linguistic manipulation.
Nauman studied mathematics, physics, and studio art at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and then pursued an MFA at the University of California, Davis. There, artists on staff such as Wayne Thiebaud and William T. Wiley supported his experimental attitude toward art making. In 1966, Nauman had his first solo show at the Nicholas Wilder Gallery in Los Angeles and was also included in Lucy R. Lippards Eccentric Abstraction group exhibition at the Fischbach Gallery in New York. Naumans solo debut in New York at Leo Castelli Gallery in 1968 was soon followed by a one-man exhibition at Konrad Fischers gallery in Düsseldorf. In 1973, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art co-organized the first museum survey, Bruce Nauman: Works from 19651972, an exhibition that also traveled in Europe. Since 1975, Nauman has been represented in New York by Sperone Westwater.
Naumans work can be found in prominent museum collections throughout the world, and he has been the subject of many notable solo exhibitions, including: Bruce Nauman, 19721981 held in the Netherlands and in West Germany in 1981; Bruce Nauman, a survey organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, that traveled in 199395 to Madrid, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York; and, in 200607, A Rose Has No Teeth, an exhibition of his early work organized by the University of California Berkeley Art Museum that toured to Turin, Italy, and Houston, Texas. Nauman has garnered multiple awards throughout his career, including the Wexner Prize in 1994, the Leone dOro (The Golden Lion) along with Louise Bourgeois at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999, and the Praemium Imperiale for Visual Arts in 2004 in Japan. He holds honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees from the San Francisco Art Institute and the California Institute of the Arts. He lives in New Mexico with his wife, the noted American painter Susan Rothenberg.