Bruce Nauman’s Topological Gardens earned him the Golden Lion at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009—the first Golden Lion for Best National Participation awarded to an American since 1990. This mixed media, multi-site investigation into the American psyche and culture includes his famed, subversive neon work Virtues and Vices along with a series of works that weave in and out of the themes of heads and hands, fountains and neons, and sound and space. At the awards ceremony, Paolo Baratta, president of La Biennale Foundation, stated that Nauman’s work “reveals the magic of meaning as it emerges through relentless repetition of language and form.” Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times wrote, “Bruce Nauman commands center stage unlike any American representative since perhaps the young Robert Rauschenberg, 45 years ago.”
Reportedly, Nauman (b. 1941) turned down a few previous offers to represent the United States in Venice before he agreed to work closely with Philadelphia Museum of Art curators Carlos Basualdo, Michael Taylor, and Erica Battle. The two new works that had their international premiere in Venice are debuting stateside in the museum’s current exhibition Notations/Bruce Nauman: Days and Giorni, slated to run until April 4, 2010. These two sound installations—in which voices emanate from directional, flat panel speakers, reciting the days of the week to tantalizing effect—proved an overall highlight for many visitors to the Biennale.
The artist’s personal magnetism and aura is so powerful that Juliet Meyers, director of education and public programs at SITE Santa Fe and Mr. Nauman’s studio manager, tells Art and Living, “He is a fine person who also happens to be a great artist. Bruce is awesome in every way and his work only gets better.”