BRUCE NAUMAN: VIDEO WORKS
Edward Ressle is pleased to inaugurate its new Shanghai gallery with an exhibition titled ‘BRUCE NAUMAN: VIDEO WORKS’, the first solo exhibition of the artist in mainland China. The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Video Data Bank (VDB) of the Art Institute of Chicago and the titles were in the original Castelli-Sonnabend video art collection.
Underlining the iconoclastic attitude of the gallery, ‘BRUCE NAUMAN: VIDEO WORKS’ features five renowned key works produced between 1968 and 1969 that are widely considered amongst the most pioneering and influential works of 20th century art history; radically changing not only artistic practice but also our general notion of art. Recorded with a Sony Portapak video camera purchased by the legendary gallerist Leo Castelli, the artist was offered an opportunity to experiment with the flexibility of the recording machine. This culminated in an intense period of video making for Nauman where he created a series of monochromatic film pieces, performing repetitive actions such as stamping, jumping, playing the violin, bouncing balls, within the premises of his studio. Each work is around sixty minutes in length and when exhibited, they provide the audience an impression that Nauman has been performing these various mundane actions forever, and thus subjects himself and the viewer to a minor test of endurance.
Isolated in his studio, his actions have no apparent reason or cause beyond his aesthetic practice. Using his body as the point of departure to explore the limits of everyday situations, Nauman used video as a theatrical stage and a surveillance device within an installation context, influenced by the experimental work of Merce Cunningham, Meredith Monk, La Monte Young, Steve Reich, and Phillip Glass. Borrowing Dadaist ideas about the procedures and operations of art making, the choice of treating his own body as a physical tool or material with which to make sculpture or performance earned Nauman a reputation as a conceptual pioneer in the field of sculpture, as Nauman himself stated, ‘if you can manipulate clay and end up with art, you can manipulate yourself in it as well. It has to do with using the body as a tool, an object to manipulate.’
Refusing consistency and categorization, Nauman’s prodigious and unconventional oeuvre has made benchmark contributions in a multitude of areas, expressing his thought-provoking ideas in a wide range of media and materials such as sculpture, photography, neon, drawing, printmaking, performance, sound and video. As MoMA director Glenn D. Lowry put in a nutshell in his foreword to the exhibition catalogue of the 2018-2019 traveling retrospective ‘Bruce Nauman: Disappearing Acts’; ‘Challenging the ways in which conventions become codified, his work erases all forms of certainty, mandating that we craft our own meanings rather than accede to more familiar rules. The lessons learned from Bruce’s penetrating intelligence become more and more necessary every day.’ An indisputable hero of postmodernism with a singular lightning-sharp wit, Nauman is known for his groundbreaking and provocative work that pose important questions about the nature of creativity. As Nauman describes, ‘From the beginning I was trying to see if I could make art that… was just there all at once. Like getting hit in the face with a baseball bat. Or better, like getting hit in the back of the neck. You never see it coming; it just knocks you down. I like that idea very much: the kind of intensity that doesn’t give you any trace of whether you’re going to like it or not.’