Bruce Nauman

Leo Castelli Gallery / Lorence-Monk

Bruce Nauman can be regarded as an emblematic figure, for he makes clear what one complex strand of ’60s—art variously and often simultaneously Minimalist, Conceptualist, and performative—was all about: the sense of entrapment, and the difficulty of springing the trap, even by dadaist means. Untitled, 1986—a circular floor piece resembling a closed tunnel—makes the point succinctly: one goes round and round, blindly caught in a system. Even when the system is structured by contradiction, it still remains closed. This, I take it, is the implicit point of the artist’s language pieces, where letters are both straightforwardly readable and reversed into mirror script. In Life Mask, 1981, “life” is comprehensible, as is “mask” underneath, but the words are not immediately legible, although it takes little effort to make them clear. It is too easy to call this work a Wittgensteinean language

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