Bruce Nauman: Contrapposto Studies, curated by Carlos Basualdo, the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Caroline Bourgeois, curator at Pinault Collection, is an homage to one of the major figures of the contemporary art international scene and focuses on three fundamental aspects of his uvre: the artist studio as a space where creation takes place, the body through performances and the exploration of sound.
From the 1960s to today, Bruce Nauman has constantly experimented with different artistic languages from photography to performance, sculpture and video to explore and mine their potentialities in a body of work that interrogates the very definition of what constitutes artistic practice.
Bruce Nauman was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2009 for Best National Participation and his work has recently been presented in numerous and major monographic exhibitions around the world. The unique exhibition at Punta della Dogana
brings together older works and the most recent ones, some of which are new or have never been exhibited in Europe before.
The exhibition was conceived as a choreographed totality, with the earlier works establishing a context for the reception of the Contrapposto series, in order to facilitate an intuitive understanding of the logic of Naumans work and of the founding themes of this work: the sound, the performance, the artists studio and the relationship between body and the physical, psychological and cultural spaces it occupies.
The exhibition in Venice is focused on a series of recent video installations that Nauman has developed over the last years and are related to a single channel video from 1968, Walk with Contrapposto, in which we see the artist walk in a narrow wooden corridor built inside his studio while trying to maintain the contrapposto pose.
The series Contrapposto includes Contrapposto Studies, I through VII, 2015/16, Walks In Walks Out, 2015 both recently bought by the Philadelphia Museum together with Pinault Collection Contrapposto Split, 2017, and Walking a Line, 2019. It represents the first time in which Nauman has explicitly revisited an earlier work to use it as the point of departure for his practice. Initially, he aimed to go beyond the limits imposed by the technology available in the late 1960s, the time when he produced the first Walk with Contrapposto.
Bruce Nauman: Contrapposto Studies includes four recent works one created specifically on the occasion of the exhibition at Punta della Dogana and three which have never been shown in Europe that illustrate the artists modus operandi, consisting in the development of themes and variations that often take the form of entire series. These works include a reinterpretation of an earlier installation, Acoustic Wedge (Sound WedgeDouble Wedge), 196970, entitled Acoustic Wedge (Mirrored), 2020; two recent Contrapposto works that Nauman developed using 3D technology (Contrapposto Split, 2017 and Walking a Line, 2019); and an interactive mapping of his studio, Nature Morte (2020), in which the artist used a handheld scanner to create 3D scans of the space. From experimenting with videotape recorders when the technology first became available, to the use of the latest iPhones and 3D technology, Nauman has always put himself in the position of a Beginner Beginning. Once again, he returns to the wellspring of possibilities related to the use of his body in the space of his studio, his working place par excellence that is also a place of intimacy.
Characterized by the inclusion of very few actual objects, it focuses instead on the intellectual, physical and phenomenological experience of Naumans work. The exhibition invites the visitors to live an immersive experience through their sensory perception, body and mind, a fundamental process to fully understand Naumans artistic research.
The use of the body is further investigated through the presentation of older works featuring the artist, such as Bouncing in the Corner No. 1, 1968, and Lip Sync, 1969, and the exceptional presentation of three live performances (Untitled or Extended Time Piece, 1969, Untitled, 1969, Untitled, 1969) that will be executed during the whole duration of the exhibition by 14 performers.
The visitor will also immerse himself in the sound piece For Children (2010), in the loud whisper of the artist in the audio installation Steel Channel Piece (1968), or in Soundtrack from First Violin Film (1969), an LP that brings together in a single audio piece the aural traces of various corporeal actions filmed by the artist.
To better understand the vision and technique of Nauman, the exhibition path also includes For Children/For Beginners (2009), a body of graphic work at the starting point for two sound pieces of the same name that also feature in the exhibition. In this diptych of drawings, consisting of a list of notes jotted down in pencil, the repetitions and variations allow us to perceive the subtlety of the correspondences and word play.
The theme of the artists studio is especially explored in Nature Morte (2020), exhibited for the first time in Europe at Punta della Dogana. Presented like at the Sperone Westwater Gallery in New York, three 4K video projections of the artists studio in New Mexico are on display. Each one is linked wirelessly to an iPad which the viewer can use to move around virtually in the studio. This immersive and virtual experience, physical as well as digital, allows the public to discover for the first time at Punta della Dogana every single object, corner and detail of Naumans studio.