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Arts

Bruce Nauman @ the MAC

Posted by Denis / June 13, 2007

20070614_Bruce Nauman.jpg
Ah, the eighties. Wide shoulder pads, leotards, gold lame fabric, cold grey concrete minimalism and neon coloured… everything. They’re back, of course. Saunter down St-Laurent any evening, pass by an American Apparel or check out the shoes on sale at Urban Outfitters and the evidence is clear: the ugliness, the gaudiness of the eighties is, apparently, in. (Clearly, anyone who thinks it’s cool to dress in the gaudy colours and fabrics, slap on thick strings of gold Chainon jewellery and fish-bowl-sized Granny shades was obviously too young to recall the trauma the tackiness of the eighties caused the first time!)

And when you see Bruce Nauman’s neon light-centric show at the MAC, the eighties come to mind faster than you can say Tron.

Sure, some of the pieces date back to the 60’s (remember when they were in?), but the vast majority were created during the early to mid-eighties. And that, surprisingly enough, isn’t a bad thing, since they’re so distinctly of their time. That alone is worthy of note. When you can look at a piece of art and know – not only by the subject matter depicted – but by the materials used and they way they are used what time they were created in, what decade, that’s a pretty clear sign of strength.

The neon-light ‘tableau’s’ are often reminiscent of Dan Flavin’s moody work fluorescent light-tube works, but Nauman is obviously a lot less conceptual and minimalist, having bent and shaped his glass tubes of light into figures and shapes to conjure up glowing, sexualised figures or texts or playful or mean clowns.

Yup, clowns. We’re talking about a dude who made a piece called Clown Torture. Check it out for yourself – if you dare. Clowns are annoying enough without their screams being blasted through a speaker system, but the piece sure is… something. Because we in Montreal have the added attraction of a selection of Nauman’s video/installation work. Some of it is really quite beautiful and profound, but, to quote: ‘In his films and videos, which focus on body language and usually show the artist “performing” in his studio, Nauman expresses the passage of time, repetitiveness, the ritual of everyday gestures and the resulting self-awareness.’ So be prepared to open your mind and your patience.

These works are far from torturous though. They’re interesting and intelligent, complex and challenging – the man isn’t one of the most well-regarded names in contemporary art for nothing, but the essential question here is: is it worth running down to the MAC at once for? Meh, not really. Compare it to recent exhibitions at the MAC – or even what’s to come – and it’s less than impressive. On Wednesday’s free nights? Go for it, Krusty.

But then again, I’m biased: I hated the eighties – I grew up in the eighties.

To September 3, 2007 at the MAC.

Discussion

52 Comments

Jérôme Ladiray / June 26, 2007 at 04:09 pm
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Dear Bruce Nauman,
Former director of a Center of art in Normandy (France) I have created since one year a gallery in Rouen, meadows of Paris. I present the works of Stéphan Balkenhol, Djamel Tatah, Baltazar Burckard, Vincent Corpet, and of some young brilliant artists. I work much with the museums and the French institutions to defend the artists whom I represent. Djamel Tatah is currently exposed to the Center George Ponpidou, Beaubourg in Paris and Baltazar Burckard will be exposed to the autumn with the museum of Orsay in Paris. I have a permanent relation with the principal French collectors and with art Medias (especially the French magazine artpress). I start to develop my work towards London where I want to create a second gallery in a few years. I am very interested by your work since many years. I will thus like to be able to meet you and discuss a project of exhibition which I will like too much to associate you. Would have you to it kindness to receive me a few minutes these next
weeks?
Jérôme Ladiray.
Jérôme Ladiray / June 26, 2007 at 04:09 pm
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Dear Bruce Nauman,
Former director of a Center of art in Normandy (France) I have created since one year a gallery in Rouen, meadows of Paris. I present the works of Stéphan Balkenhol, Djamel Tatah, Baltazar Burckard, Vincent Corpet, and of some young brilliant artists. I work much with the museums and the French institutions to defend the artists whom I represent. Djamel Tatah is currently exposed to the Center George Ponpidou, Beaubourg in Paris and Baltazar Burckard will be exposed to the autumn with the museum of Orsay in Paris. I have a permanent relation with the principal French collectors and with art Medias (especially the French magazine artpress). I start to develop my work towards London where I want to create a second gallery in a few years. I am very interested by your work since many years. I will thus like to be able to meet you and discuss a project of exhibition which I will like too much to associate you. Would have you to it kindness to receive me a few minutes these next
weeks?
Jérôme Ladiray.
Eric Ellsworth / February 17, 2009 at 10:44 pm
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Mr. Nauman, Hi there. My name is Eric Ellsworth and I am writing a report for an art class on a living artist. I picked you! I was wondering if I could email you a few basic questions. Thank you.
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