Bruce Nauman (b. 1941)

Lot 10: Bruce Nauman (b. 1941)


June 23, 2005
London, United Kingdom

More About this Item

Description: Hanging Heads # 1 (Blue Andrew, Mouth Open/Red Julie with cap)
wax and wire
Andrew: 11 3/8 x 9 7/8 x 6 3/4 in. (29 x 25 x 17cm.)
Julie: 10 1/4 x 7 1/8 x 5 1/2 in. (26 x 18 x 14cm.)
Executed in 1989
Artist or Maker: Bruce Nauman (b. 1941)
Exhibited: Frankfurt, Museum für Moderne Kunst, on long term loan.
Literature: J. Simon (ed.), Bruce Nauman, Minneapolis 1994, no. 414 (illustrated, p. 317).
Provenance: Galerie Konrad Fischer, Düsseldorf.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1989.

Executed in 1989, Hanging Heads #1 (Blue Andrew, Mouth Open/Red Julie with cap) comprises two casts of the heads of Nauman's collaborators Andrew and Julie, their expressions captured precisely in the all-revealing dental wax. Despite the precision of the dental wax, used for medical purposes, the faces of Andrew and Julie remain strangely inscrutable, while their suspension upside-down from the ceiling, and their disjointedness in being heads without bodies, fill the work with a mysterious tension. Their eyes are closed, the so-called windows of the soul unable and unwilling to convey anything to the viewer. In this way, Nauman highlights the flaws and limitations of human communication, and of art in particular. The casts are unable to convey anything subjective, either from Nauman or from his collaborators. Indeed, their closed eyes imply that the cast people are determined both to keep their feelings hidden, and to close themselves off from the world of the viewer.

Nauman's reprisal during the 1980s of casting bodies and body parts in wax marked a return to one of the techniques that had characterised his early career and which had been used in many of his most famous masterpieces, such as Henry Moore Bound to Fail and From Hand to Mouth, both of 1967. In returning to this technique, Nauman was returning to his interest in the space physically occupied by art. Art involves self-revelation, and Nauman's casts of his own body in the 1960s externalised this exposure. For Nauman, the act of looking at art is deeply penetrative and invasive. The artist is expected to bare his soul, yet in Nauman's case is determined not to allow this. Instead, he manages deftly to ward off the viewer's curiosity in a manner that also actively illustrates the inherent limitations of art and communication. In Hanging Heads #1 (Blue Andrew, Mouth Open/Red Julie with cap), Nauman has kept himself at one more remove, displaying the heads of others in his place, while their uncommunicative faces eloquently tell us nothing at all.

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