Bruce Nauman (b. 1941)
Bruce Nauman (b. 1941)

Untitled (Hand Pair)

Bruce Nauman (b. 1941)
Untitled (Hand Pair)
stamped with initials, numbered and dated 'B.N. 1996 2/2' (on the base)
white bronze on artist's base
bronze: 14¾ x 6 x 4½ in. (37.4 x 15.2 x 11.4 cm.)
base: 39 x 11½ x 11½ in. (99 x 29.2 x 29.2 cm.)
Executed in 1996.
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner
J. Simon, "Bruce Nauman's Topological Gardens", Art Press, June 2009, p. 50 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
LIII Venice Biennale, United States Pavillion, Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens, June-October 2009, pl. 7 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Fifteen Pairs of Hands, March 2011-January 2012 (another example exhibited).

Brought to you by

Koji Inoue
Koji Inoue

Lot Essay

Throughout Bruce Nauman's extensive and varied career, the theme of the body has been one of his most consistent themes. As early as 1966, with his Neon Templates of the Left Half of My Body Taken at Ten-Inch Intervals (Collection of Philip Johnson), Nauman began what became a life-long inquiry into self-exploration, often using his own body as the vessel for his investigations. Throughout his self-referential practice he has used casts of his face, feet and hands as the artistic tools with which he explores what it means to be an artist. Executed in 1996, Untitled (Hand Pair) celebrates the tools that lie at the very heart of artistic expression: the hands.

Comprising of two hands, one reaching out to the other and touching only gently at the fingertips, the tactile and intimate quality of this particular cast comes not only from the personal nature of the pair of hands but also from the intimate detail in which they have been executed. Cast in bronze, they appear both strong and delicate, as the muscular nature of the fingers and palms is contrasted by the individual lines, wrinkles and creases that show a lifetime of artistic endeavor. Displaced from their usual context within the body as a whole, the hands now become open to multiple interpretations. Frozen in time, they become indelibly bound to each other, each depending on the other and in the process becoming greater than the sum of its parts.

Untitled (Hand Pair) is part of a series of works that Nauman undertook in 1996 that portrays pairs of hands in various configurations. Fifteen pairs were exhibited at the 2009 Venice Biennale as part of Topographical Gardens, a survey of Nauman's work for which the artist was presented the Golden Lion Award for Best National Participation. In the citation, the jury praised Nauman's work as it "reveals the magic of meaning as it emerges through relentless repetition of language and form" ('Bruce Nauman wins a Golden Lion at Venice,' LA Times, June 6, 2009). Beginning early in his career, he began to use his own body to explore this interest, partly out of circumstance (as he admitted he didn't have much money to buy art materials) and partly because he found that it allowed him to develop a much more holistic artistic practice, "I think because when you're trying to find something out, it's much easier to do, using yourself, he recalled...[If someone else fabricates it] you have to make a whole different set of instructions, you have to think about the work...: whether it's a performance or having a piece made or something; you have to think about it in a different way. If I have an object fabricated out of steel or something then I have to know, maybe even more, because you have to tell somebody else everything, more than maybe you have to tell yourself." (B. Nauman, interviewed by M. De Angelus, in J. Kraynak ed., Please Pay Attention: Bruce Nauman's Words, New York, Cambridge, 2003, p. 257).

From Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to Rodin's The Cathedral, the human hand has been central to artist's concerns about their relationship to the world. For many, the hands connect them to the physical world and they are also the means by which their ideas become reality. Jean-Paul Sartre, writing the introduction for a 1948 exhibition of Alberto Giacommetti's work featuring La Main (his haunting evocation of an outstretched human hand) wrote, "I can consider separately from the tree itself this wavering branch, but I cannot think of an arm rising, a fist closing, apart from a human agent. A man raises his arm, a man clenches his fist: man is the indissoluble unity and the absolute source of his movement." (J. Sartre, The Search for the Absolute, exh. cat., Pierre Matisse Gallery, 1948, p. 3). The hand is our prime intermediary between the mind and the world, it allows thought to act upon and transform the world. The outstretched hand expresses the human need to grasp, to reach out towards the world and to aspire within it; the hand enables us to realize our potential in accomplishing all things. In the face of another, the hand may embrace in love or ward off in fear, extend itself in joy or lamentation. No part of the human body, except for the head itself, is a more potent symbol for the totality of the human endeavor.

More from Post-War & Contemporary Evening Sale

View All
View All