Description: BRUCE NAUMAN (b. 1941)
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overall: 15 by 72 by 74in. 38.1 by 182.9 by 188cm.
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1990
Neal Benezra, et. al., Bruce Nauman: Catalogue RaisonnE, Minneapolis, 1995, cat. no. 445, p. 342, illustrated
In 1998, following the brilliantly cruel Clown Torture videos and neons such as Poke in the Eye, Nauman began to cast animal parts and dismembered human heads. Brutishly assembled into complex installations, these works refer to the dark side of human nature.
Despite their lacking a clear narrative, sex, pain and death are evident in these works, which includes the morbidly beautiful Fox Wheel. The foxes are held captive both by the wheel and by each other, as each fox, bound to the next by oral penetration, bites the leg of its neighbour.
This mordant humor is a constant in Nauman's work, exemplified further by the darkly droll neon, Human Sexual Experience. As in Fox Wheel, the theme of this work is penetration, made clear by the extended finger that pokes into a hole created by the fingers of the other hand. Through this obscene gesture, Nauman posits the impossibility of pleasurable love, just as he suggests a cycle of unavoidable pain in Fox Wheel.
This neon relates to Fox Wheel directly through another sculpture, Untitled (Hand Circle), 1996. Rendered in bronze like Fox Wheel, the dismembered hands are locked into a circle of both real and implied penetration, much like the bronze open-mouthed foxes trapped in their wheel so reminiscent of Eadweard Muybridge's motion studies of
animals. The entrapment of the circle is a powerful and consistent metaphor of Nauman's oeuvre, both in sculptures and in the continuous and repetitive dialogue and actions of his videos. Nauman implies that humans, although ostensibly less vulnerable, are capable of little more choice in their fate than even the wiliest of animals.