Bruce Nauman (b. 1941)
fiberglass and polyester resin
80¼ x 3 7/8 x 2 in. (203.8 x 9.8 x 5 cm.)
Executed in 1965.
Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich
Lisson Gallery, London
Saatchi Collection, London
Gagosian Gallery, New York
Joseph Rank, Beverly Hills
Vivian Horan Fine Art, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
P. Schjeldahl, Art of Our Time: The Saatchi Collection, London, 1984, vol. 1, p. 8, no. 95 (illustrated in color).
J. Simon, et al., eds., Bruce Nauman: Exhibition Catalogue and Catalogue Raisonné, Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, 1994, p. 193, no. 9 (illustrated in color).
Kunsthalle Basel; Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris and London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Bruce Nauman, July 1986-February 1987, p. 30.

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Sandra Sublett
Sandra Sublett

Lot Essay

Nauman's statement may sound intentionally incendiary, however it represents a conviction that the artist held as early as 1965, when he painted the last canvas of his career. When Nauman graduated college in 1964, the world was dominated by Pop Art and Minimalism. For a driven young artist, there was a seeming dearth of possible artistic practices available. Untitled, created the same year that Nauman executed his final painting, represents the shift in the artist's career that led him to imagine the works that would come to define his oeuvre and usher in a new epoch in Western art history.

One of the artist's "soft-shape" works, Untitled hangs on the wall, defying the division between the object and painting, its very ordinariness undermining the ideals of both traditional sculpture and painting. This "soft-shape" is a logical extension from the last painting that Nauman created--a slender 66 x 12 inch piece with blue and tan bands on the surface emphasizing the elongated shape of the canvas, much like Frank Stella's early paintings. Unlike the painting, which looks mechanically precise, Untitled feels both organic and manmade-it is a corporeal index of the artist's labor.

The "soft-shapes" are extremely labor intensive--first Nauman created a plaster mold from a handmade clay form and cast the finished piece brushing in coats of liquid polyester resin and laying in sheets of fiberglass. The hollow core of the work is red, built up from infused dyes in the resin but this is not visible when the work hangs properly, highlighting his concern with artistic labor and conceptual investigation above aesthetic effect-an assertion that would come to define his oeuvre.

The "soft-shapes" of 1965 gave way to a plethora of other artistic activities. That same year, Nauman enclosed a neon tube in a fiberglass casing, pushing the "soft shape" forward. The artist also began filming and photographing himself and others performing basic tasks, to highlight the importance of action above the finished product. Untitled marks the beginning of Nauman's mature work, which alongside the works of Robert Morris, Eva Hesse, Joseph Beuys and an entire generation of post-Minimalist artists around the world, revolutionized our concept of what art could be.

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