Curator's Choice: The earliest Bruce Nauman work held by the Tate collection

| 26 July 2013 | Updated: 25 July 2013

Curator’s Choice: Stephanie Straine, Assistant Curator at Tate Liverpool, on a Bruce Nauman clay creation...

A photo of a woman standing next to a yellow sculpture against an exhibition wall
© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2002. Image courtesy Tate Liverpool
“My own particular area of art-historical interest is American art of the 1960s – specifically minimalism, process and conceptual art.

I’m therefore particularly thrilled that we have been able to include Bruce Nauman’s Untitled in the exhibition DLA Piper Series: Constellations.

This 1965 work is the earliest by Nauman in Tate’s collection. The sculpture – comprised of two irregular, hollow bars of fibreglass and resin – leans at a 45-degree angle to connect wall and floor.

It’s one of a series of similarly untitled pieces, all from 1965. To produce it, Nauman made a single long, flat clay form, which he covered to create a shallow plaster mould.

From this, the two curved bars of resin and fibreglass were cast using different coloured pigments each time – white with traces of blue and pink and yellow.

In its handmade irregularity and messy, plaster-splattered surface, it demonstrates a haptic and radically deskilled mode of sculpture that undercuts the perfectly traceless industrial forms of minimalism, and points towards a new language of post-minimalism and process art.

Within the exhibition we have included Nauman’s sculpture in the constellation of works that orbits around Single Form (Eikon), from 1937-8, cast in 1963 – a work in bronze by Barbara Hepworth.

Both works use a casting process to project a particularly organic quality. But whereas the anthropomorphic monumentality of Hepworth’s sculpture is explicit, Nauman’s bodily associations are implied, working through the logic of the part object to impart an abstract, sensual suggestiveness.

It is this kind of intriguing and yet palpable connection – forged across time and space between two vastly different artists – that makes Constellations such a vivid and productive a way of re-thinking Tate’s collection.”

  • DLA Piper Series: Constellations is at Tate Liverpool until Summer 2014.
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