A Rose Has No Teeth: Bruce Nauman in the 1960s is an exhibiton of Bruce Nauman’s early work, the work he did while he was a graduate student at U.C. Davis and then, between 1966-68, teaching at the San Francisco Art Institute. The exhibition opens at the Berkely Art Museum January 18. Go.
The exhibition, curated by senior curator Constance M. Lewallen, includes early films, videos, neon “signs,” sculpture, photographs and drawings. Lewallen delineates Nauman’s relationship to Bay Area experimental art of the 1960s. Several significant pieces are exhibited here for the first time.
In the midst of California’s macho art culture, at the height of the Vietnam War, pre-dating1970s feminist performance art, Nauman went into the studio and made Art Make-Up, a 16mm color film to be projected on the four walls of a room. It is projected on four walls so that, standing in the center of the room in the bright white light of the screens, a viewer is absorbed into the process and boundaries are erased between performer and audience. The sound of four projectors whirs overhead.
In front of a stationary camera, Nauman paints his torso, a tall, lean male body, the 1960s ideal, first white, then pink, green and, finally, black. He is an Abstract Expressionist painting, a classical bronze sculpture, a male person revealing, very seriously, his vulnerable side. If you look closely, you will see the poses of classical sculpture and female and drag fashion.
This existential performance is one of covering, concealing, withdrawing from public view. The film addresses the mutability of the self and the question of what is concealing, what revelation. It addresses the social construction of the self, of color, of gender.
In Art Make-Up, Nauman uses the process of concealment, painting himself out of the picture, to reveal an essential human need, to protect the innermost self.