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PRINT May 2009

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Bruce Nauman at the 53rd Venice Biennale

“BRUCE NAUMAN: TOPOLOGICAL GARDENS,” the title of the exhibition organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the United States pavilion at this year’s Fifty-third Venice Biennale, may at first seem incongruous. Why use a mathematical term in connection with an artist famous for focusing on language and the body? Yet topology—a field of math that, as the museum puts it, “examines the continuity of space amid changing conditions”—does turn out to be slyly apropos. Already invoked by critics to describe post-Minimalism’s torqued and twisted forms, here it suggests a way of understanding not only the sixty-seven-year-old artist’s legendarily heterogeneous practice but also the impulse that led the commissioning curators, Carlos Basualdo and Michael R. Taylor of the PMA, to take the work out of the pavilion proper and into the city at large.

“Bruce is always talking about the experience of

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