Description: Bruce Nauman (b. 1941) Second Poem Piece steel 60 x 60 x ½ in. (152.4 x 152.4 x 1.3 cm.) Executed in 1969. This work is number two from an edition of three, plus one artist's proof.
Artist or Maker: Bruce Nauman (b. 1941)
Exhibited: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; New York, Whitney Museum of Art; Bern, Kunsthalle Bern; Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle; Eindhoven, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum; Milan, Palazzo Reale; Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum and San Francisco Museum of Art,
Bruce Nauman: Work from 1965 to 1972
, December 1972-July 1974, no. 55, p. 96 (illustrated).
Basel, Kunsthalle Basel; Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and London, Whitechapel Art Gallery,
, July 1986-March 1987 (illustrated).
Notes: Text and word games have always been a crucial element for Nauman's thinking. The structure of games, like the structure of languages, clearly defines the way something is to be used and the meaning it will have. The "aural" dimension of Nauman's work is also central to its meaning. In Second Poem Piece, sentences are engraved on a steel slab, or page. The phrases are grammatically correct, but do not make sense in terms of literary narrative. Meaning is challenged by progressive removal of one or more words from the sentence "YOU MAY NOT WANT TO SCREW HERE/YOU MAY NOT WANT TO HEAR" in eighteen different variation. As one "reads" or repeats the words, the text becomes more emotionally charged as the intensity of the repetition progress and culminates with the directive "YOU WANT YOU WANT." "What I was interested in was that art generally adds information to a situation, and it seems reasonable to also be able to remove information from a situation and get art from that." (J. Livingston and M. Tucker, Bruce Nauman, Works from 1965-1972, Los Angeles 1974, p. 44).
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Second Poem Piece anticipates Nauman's interest in manipulating language and meaning into sculpture, which was essential to the development of his large-scale neon sculptures of the eighties.