Bruce Nauman

American (Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1941)

As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Bruce Nauman studied mathematics and physics as well as art — a combination of creativity and logic that would fuel his subsequent practice. He later moved to Northern California to study art at the University of California, Davis.

On one level, Nauman champions the idea that art is the product of whatever action the artist performs in the studio; his early works articulate the view that the process of making is equal to the finished object, not just a means to an end. At the same time, the works often circle back to cast doubt on this assertion, and this skeptical approach has informed much of his career. In works that are alternately witty and serious, Nauman has also interrogated the unreliability of communication. He exposes the multiplicity of meaning that is possible in language — both visual and verbal — and the separate roles of artist and viewer in determining meaning.

Nauman has avoided settling on a recognizable, characteristic style; his preferred media have ranged from wax sculpture to architectural installation, to sound, to printmaking, to performance, to neon. He has lived and worked in New Mexico since 1979.

From June 3, 2013, through early 2016, SFMOMA's building on Third Street in San Francisco will be temporarily closed for expansion construction. Selected artworks in our collection are included in a range of off-site exhibitions during this period. We regret that the remainder of the collection will not be available for study during this time.

In the meantime, we invite you to explore a wide selection of our collection online. Please note that the information presented online is subject to revision. Please contact us at to verify artwork details.

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