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Due to his concern for how things are made, Bruce Nauman's pieces often look as if they are not finished works of art.  The fiberglass works of 1965 look almost as if they are moulds for pieces that were never completed.  This feeling is intensified by their intentionally unfinished look, an appearance of poor craftsmanship.  The colors too, are generally muted, grayish tones more those of the form-work for a piece than the piece itself.  The shapes of the works are such that one often appears to be looking more at the back, or structural part rather than at the completed surface.

Late in 1965 Nauman began his work with latex rubber on cloth backing.  Here the "throw-away" look became intensified, some of the works resembling nothing more than piles of rags.  The limp, snagging quality gives the impression that the intended product has collapsed.

With the fiberglass pieces of 1966 the title becomes a vital element of the work.  In Platform Made Up Of The Space Between Two Rectilinear Boxes On The Floor (#21) it is the thought that counts.  Getting there is almost all the piece  the fun, the piece does not look like much.  The important difference is that the earlier fiberglass pieces are derived as forms for their own sake, with the 1966 pieces that form results more from the thought process. 

In the pieces the immediately followed, the titles retain their importance, the difference being that the scale is arrived at through bodily measurement.  Works #25-28, #30, #32, and #44, although all of different materials, are based on casts of parts of the artist's body.  The idea of elongation reappears in #36 and #42.  My Last Name Exaggerated 14 Times Vertically, one of three neon pieces is of particular importance.  The subject matter, the artist's last name elongated, is only of partial importance to what is seen, visually.  What is observed is a large piece of neon; the tubing, the wires, and transformers that make it work.  Here is the essence of neon light, its workings, its appearance and its subject matter. 

Lately Nauman has concerned himself not only with sculpture but with photography as an art form.  Perhaps the most disturbing is Composite Photo Of Two Messes On The Studio Floor (#40).  A long, rambling composition, it is a direct statement on how the artist lives, works and thinks.  Unlike Jasper John's painted bronze of a Savarin can with brushes, a statement about how the artist works, it is a documentary photograph of what is there.  

David Whitney

Bruce Nauman was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1941.  He is now a resident of San Francisco.  This is his first one-man exhibition in New York.