Turning a fresh perspective on the works of American artist Bruce Nauman, Hauser and Wirth is currently presenting a curated retrospective of the artist’s work, focusing on his large scale installations and neon works. Organized by Hauser and Wirth curator Philip Larratt-Smith, the exhibition presents Nauman’s work through a Freudian lens, using psychoanalytic evaluation and subconscious motivators as organizing principles in the presentation of Nauman’s work.
Once quoted as saying he wanted to create work “that was just there all at once…like getting hit in the back of the neck with a baseball bat,” this approach is a deliberately contrapuntal analysis to Nauman’s work, rejecting the empirical emphasis so often attributed to him in favor of more subterranean motives.
Welcoming new connections to stretch through Nauman’s work, the show re-calibrates the focus Nauman’s output on running themes of violence, sexuality, repression and mental dissonances, and pulls back the curtain on a system of unconscious impulses and desires within both the viewer and the artist. Accordingly, the results are more than a little jarring.
Consisting of five works from across the artist’s career, the exhibition is short and sweet: arranged in a single room at Hauser and Wirth’s Savile Row location. Working on such a small scale, mindfuck allows each piece to speak in a bold, clearly articulate voice, given new weight and nuance through the context and conceit of its presentation.
Using some of Nauman’s most recognizable works, such as his rotating ring of animal caracasses Carousel (1988), this new scope of analysis is perhaps intended to give viewers a more accessible vantage point into Nauman’s practice. So often recognized for an abrasive stance towards the viewer, Nauman’s work commands something of any gallery goer who stands in front of it, often invoking a sense of repulsion or horror. It would seem, then, that this new framework aims to give power back to the viewer, turning the tables to view deep into Nauman’s inner psyche, and examine the artist’s continued output while encouraging a higher degree of accessibility.
Providing a fresh take on a major voice of the past 50 years of American Contemporary Art, Hauser and Wirth’s Larratt-Smith allows Bruce Nauman’s work to take steps in a new direction, while still embracing the artist’s challenging body of work.
The show is on view until March 9th.