Portrait of Bruce Nauman
Photographer: Jim McHugh
© Jim McHugh

Born in Indiana in 1941, Bruce Nauman studied mathematics and art at the University of Wisconsin between 1960 and 1964, and received his MA from the University of California in 1966. Nauman’s practice encompasses an extremely varied range of media and his prints form an important part of a creative cycle that ranges from drawing to sculpture and from performance to video work. His first set of prints were published by Leo Castelli Gallery in 1969. Between 1972 and 1973 he worked at Gemini GEL on a series of seven prints which explore the functionality of language through the depiction of words.

An example of this can be seen in the work Vision, in which the word ‘vision’ is rendered barely visible in thin black lettering against a stark white ground. The viewer must move close to the work for the word to become clear. In this way Nauman makes a pun on the concept of double vision, forcing the viewer to experience the word as both a signifier and a material object.
Emilie Owens


Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, United States of America

Studies Art and Mathematics and receives Bachelor of Science., University of Wisconsin, Madison

Receives Masters of Arts at University of California, Davis, studying under William T Wiley and Robert Arneson; teaches at San Francisco Art Institute; first solo exhibition, Nicholas Wilder Gallery, Los Angeles

Moves to Mill Valley, California

Solo exhibition, Performance corridor, at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, New York (develops participatory projects in which the viewer duplicates the physical experience of the artist – uses architecture, light, mirrors, and video monitors to structure the viewer’s experience); included in Dokumenta  4, Kassel, West Germany

Moves to Pasadena, California; included in exhibitions Biennial exhibition, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Nine young artists: Theodoran awards, Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York City

Teaches at University of California, Irvine; included in exhibitions, Between man and matter, Tokyo biennale, Japan; Air, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, travelling to Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide and Fort Pavilion, Sydney, Australia

Solo exhibition, Oversize prints, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City

Travelling retrospective exhibition, Bruce Nauman: work from 1965–72, originating at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; included in Dokumenta  5, Kassel; Eighteenth national print exhibition, Brooklyn Museum, New York City

Included in exhibition, American drawings 1963–1973,Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City; undertakes residency at Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles

Solo exhibition at Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; included in travelling exhibitions, Drawing now, originating at Museum of Modern Art, New York City; Video art, originating at Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Included in exhibitions, The artist and the photograph, at Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Painting and sculpture in California: the modern era, at San Francisco Museum of Art, California

Included in exhibitions, Made by sculptors, at Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Venice biennale, Italy

Moves to Pecos, New Mexico

Included in Venice biennale

Solo exhibition, at Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, The Netherlands; Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden, West Germany

Retrospective exhibition at Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; included in Dokumenta  7, Kassel

Included in exhibitions, Gemini G.E.L.: art and collaboration, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Biennial exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City

Solo exhibition, at Museum of Modern Art, New York City; included in exhibitions, New York on paper 3,Museum of Modern Art, New York City; 1985 Carnegie International, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Transformations in sculpture, originating at Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York City

Solo exhibition, at Kunsthalle, Basel, Switzerland; solo exhibition, at Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville, Paris; included in exhibitions, Lightworks: works of the art of using light as a medium, Drill Hall Gallery, Canberra (formerly operated by the National Gallery of Australia)

Solo exhibition, at Whitechapel Gallery, London, England; included in exhibition, Avant garde in the 80s, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California

Solo exhibitions, Bruce Nauman: videos 1965–1986, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Bruce Nauman (collections), Musée National d’Art Modern, Paris, France

Included in travelling exhibitions, First Impressions: Early prints by forty-six contemporary artists, originating at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota; The readymade boomerang: certain relations in 20th century art, Biennale of Sydney, Australia

Travelling exhibition, Bruce Nauman: prints and multiples, originating at Thea Westreich, New York; included in Biennial exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City

Included in exhibition, Marking the decades: prints 1960–1990, Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; Dokumenta  9, Kassel

Awarded the Wolf Prize for sculpture; travelling retrospective exhibition, Bruce Nauman, organised by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; included in Biennale d’art contemporain, Lyon, France

Awarded the Wexner Prize for sculpture

Included in Biennale d’art contemporain, Lyon

Travelling exhibition, Bruce Nauman (image/text 1966–1996), originating at Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Biennial exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City

Receives Golden Lion award at the Venice biennale, Italy

Publishes Please pay attention please: Bruce Nauman’s words: writings and interviews,(MIT Press: Cambridge 2003)

Receives the Unilever Series commission for display in Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London

Solo exhibitions: Bruce Nauman: mapping the studio, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia; Pay attention: Bruce Nauman videos from the collection of Barbara Balkin Cottle and Robert Cottle, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, Arizona; included in exhibition, Open systems: rethinking art c.1970, Tate Modern, London, England

Travelling retrospectives: Bruce Nauman: make me think me, originating at Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, England; Elusive signs: Bruce Nauman works with light, originating at Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, concluding at Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia; included in exhibition, I not I: Samuel Beckett, Philip Guston, Bruce Nauman, Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, Ireland

Travelling solo exhibition, A rose has no teeth: Bruce Nauman in the 1960s, originating at University of California, Berkley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, California; solo exhibition, Soft ground etchings and Infrared outtakes, Gemini G.E.L. at Joni Moisant Weyl, New York

Included in 16th Biennale of Sydney, Revolutions: forms that turn, Sydney, Australia; solo exhibition, Bruce Nauman: drawings for installations, Sperone Westwater, New York

Represents United States at Venice Biennale with solo exhibition, Bruce Nauman: topological gardens and receives the Golden Lion award for Best National Participation; solo exhibitions: Bruce Nauman: dead shot Dan, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri; Bruce Nauman: drawings for neons, Craig F. Starr Gallery, New York; Bruce Nauman: one video and works on paper, Galleria Zabert, Torino, Italy

Retrospective, Bruce Nauman: dream passage, Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, Germany; included in exhibition, On line: drawing through the twentieth century, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Retrospective, Bruce Nauman: the true artist, Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany; solo exhibition, Bruce Nauman: combinations described (Chicago), Donald Young Gallery, Chicago, Illinois

Solo exhibition, Bruce Nauman: inside the White Cube,White Cube, London, England

Solo exhibitions: Bruce Nauman: mindfuck, Hauser & Wirth, London, England; Bruce Nauman: some illusions: videos and drawings, Sperone Westwater, New York

Bruce Nauman currently lives and works in Galisteo, New Mexico

Barbara Delano © Tyler Graphics Ltd., revised Kate Buckingham, 2006; revised Julia Greenstreet, 2014

This chronology provides an overview of selected biographical information, major solo and group exhibitions held within the artist's own lifetime.

Further information will be added to this site as the National Gallery proceeds with its research and documentation.

Last updated January 2017