Zwirner & Wirth's exhibition Bruce Nauman: Selected Works will examine important sculptures in bronze, wax and neon, related drawings, and video works, which signal Nauman's return to his figurative interests of the 60s, after a decade of exploring non-objective, installational art forms in the 70s.
Stemming from the "carousel" works of the 1980s, in Large Butt to Butt and Blue Cat, both made in 1989, Nauman explores the tension between socially acceptable forms of behavior and the violent results of sport hunting. Using taxadermic animal forms, which have been dismembered and reassembled, Nauman, comically and grotesquely, challenges conventional notions of human behavior, forcing the viewer to pose questions about our relationship to nature and how we justify animals as trophies versus animals as sustenance.
The violence referred to in the killing and flaying of animals, is taken up conceptually in the neon Malice of 1980. Malice, defined as "ill will, evil intent", here flickers like an advertisement, merging a socio-pathological concept with a seemingly harmless, and often desirable, form of commercialism.
Four Pairs of Heads (Bronze) of 1991 also pursues notions of deprivation and disembod-iment, but here Nauman substitutes decapitated human heads for the animal carcasses. The suspending of the heads alludes to the common practice of hanging prized game outside one’s home, but, even in all their emotional coolness and rigorous formalism, we are still compelled to question who these people are and why this violent act took place.
The heads, which are also named Julie, Andrew, and Rinde are placed in precarious configurations. With individual titles such as Julie Head with Tongue and Nose in Neck of Andrew, Nauman hints at sexual interaction, yet the way they are physically attached to each other, undermines any successful attempt at intimacy. The pairings ironically evoke an emotional distancing and physical estrangement, which leaves the viewer experiencing the same frustration.
Sexual frustration is central to both 1985 works Masturbating Man and the neon Sex and Death/Double 69. Both protagonists in these works are condemned to dwell in a Dantean hell of repetition. The act of self-pleasuring becomes merely mechanical and doomed to bear no release. The sexual acts of Sex and Death/Double 69 blink hypnotically at us, illustrating the obsessiveness and discomfort man's behavior.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with an essay by John Yau.