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Having Fun/Good Life, Symptoms

Bruce Nauman (American, b. 1941)

1985

Medium fabricated neon Measurements H: 69 x W: 131 5/16 x D: 13 1/2 in. (175.26 x 333.53 x 34.29 cm) Credit Purchase: gift of the Partners of Reed Smith Shaw and McClay and Carnegie International Acquisition Fund Accession Number 85.32 Location Gallery 15, Scaife Galleries

Narrative

Bruce Nauman's Having Fun/Good Life, Symptoms captures our attention with its neon vortex inviting us to grapple with its contrasting list of words and their antonyms. In this work, Nauman insists that we all live "the good life," yet implies the dichotomous price for such luxury. Nauman was fascinated by neon's use as an advertising medium, and its potential as a vehicle for social commentary in an art context. In 1966, Nauman moved to San Francisco and kept a storefront studio flanked by the sort of neon signage that influenced his own work. Between 1966 and 1968, in particular, he experimented with spatial boundaries, and neon light's elusive edges and aural glow allowed him to explore the viewer's interaction with lighted space. He recalls the early neon signs that he hung in his street-level studio window: "I had an idea that I could make art that would kind of disappear—an art that was supposed to not quite look like art. In that case, you wouldn't really notice it until you paid attention. Then, when you read it, you would have to think about it."

Artist Bio

Indiana native Bruce Nauman received his BS from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1964 and his MFA from the University of California, Davis in 1964. From 1966 to 1968, he taught at San Francisco Art Institute and in 1970 at the University of California, Irvine. Nauman has recently been featured in solo exhibitions at venues including Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2009); Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and Berkeley Art Museum (both in 2008); Castello di Rivoli Museum d'Arte Contemporanea, Torino, The Menil Collection, Houston, and Musee d'Art Contemporain, Montreal (all in 2007); Tate Modern (2004); Ludwig Museum, Cologne (2003); DIA Center for the Arts (2002); Centre George Pompidou, Paris (1997); and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1993). He has recently appeared in group exhibitions at venues such as Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Fundación/Colección Jumex, Mexico City, and The Museum of Modern Art, New York (all in 2008); CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco (2007-2008); Dallas Museum of Art (2007); Nationalgaleria Hamburger Bahnhof and Kunsthaus Zürich (both in 2006); Barbican Art Gallery, London (2005); and Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (both in 2004). In addition to being included in the 1991 Carnegie International, Nauman's recent biennial appearances include Biennale of Sydney (2008); Münster Skulptur Projekte (2007); Magasin 3, Stockholm (2006); and Venice Biennale (2005, 2007).

—From acquisition narrative, 2009, by Douglas Fogle and Karin Campbell