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

Untitled (Hand Circle)

Bruce Nauman (b. 1941)
Untitled (Hand Circle)
stamped with initials and dated 'B.N. 1996' (on the underside)
cast phosphorous bronze, silver sodder, copper, phosphorous bronze wire and sandblasted steel
5 x 29 x 27½ in. (12.7 x 73.7 x 69.9 cm.)
Executed in 1996. This work is from an edition of nine plus one artist's proof and one foundry proof.
Sperone Westwater Gallery, New York
Private collection, New York
Anon sale; Christie's, New York, 13 November 2002, lot 34
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Ridgefield, Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art and Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Bruce Nauman 1985-1996: Drawings, Prints and Related Works, May 1997-April 1998, p. 75 (foundry proof illustrated).
Oslo, Galleri Riis, Bruce Nauman Selected Works: 1970-1996, November-December 1998 (another example exhibited).
San Francisco, California College of Arts and Crafts, Spaced Out: Late 1990s Works from Vicki and Kent Logan Collection, April-June 1999, pl. 6 (another example illustrated in color).
La Biennale di Venezia, 53rd International Art Exhibtion, Universitá Ca' Foscari, Bruce Nauman: Topographical Gardens, June-October 2009 (another example exhibited).

Lot Essay

Bruce Nauman challenges inherited sculptural values in his wry, self-referential works, whether working in film, installation art or sculpture. Heralded as one of the most important sculptors of his generation, he came of age in the mid-1960s. Nauman dabbled in the multifarious mediums of sculpture, performance art and film, before settling into the word-play works that now define his career. Since the mid-1980s, Nauman has returned to casting bodies and body parts in wax, to the techniques of his earliest career, which had been used in some of his most important works, such as 1967's From Hand to Mouth. In Untitled (Hand Circle), Nauman reinvestigates the fundamental issues that have dominated his work for the past 40 years.

Untitled (Hand Circle), executed in 1996, is a stunning work of phosphorescent bronze. Nauman suspended a circle of interlocking hands from the ceiling, evoking a chandelier's elegance. Each double-hand has two ends, one with a pointing finger, and the other forming a circle. Taken together the hands form a lewd gesture, quite startling given the piece's tender modeling and its overall elegance. These disembodied hands recall the uncanny works of Louise Bourgeois or the early work of Alberto Giacometti. However, the sculpture's connects most significantly to Nauman's word-play pieces, each hand forming a sign; one hand's gesture by itself has a completely different meaning than when Nauman places the two hands together. Part of a series of hand pieces, Untitled (Hand Circle) is set apart because of this connection to Nauman's word-play works, which delve into language's complexity and fallibility.

We can read the symbols backwards and forwards - since the piece is circular - and they form a figurative palindrome. Nauman made his best works in a circular format, and he has long been obsessed with rotation and circularity. This fascination may arise from his earliest interests in mathematics and philosophy. He rendered what is perhaps his most famous work, 1967's The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths, in neon tubing with lettering that spirals outward in a circular format. In 2009, the Venice Biennale showed The True Artist for which Nauman won the Golden Lion for Best Pavilion. Nauman also selected Untitled (Hand Circle) to be included at the Biennale. The Indianapolis Museum of Art owns a separate cast.


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