Author(s): Peter Plagens
Bruce Nauman (b. 1941) is one of the most innovative, provocative and influential artists working today. His pioneering explorations of sculpture, performance, sound, video and installations - always questioning the role of the artist - have broken new ground and inspired innumerable artists' careers. Confronted with what to do in his studio soon after graduating, Nauman had the simple but profound realization that 'If I was an artist and I was in the studio, then whatever I was doing in the studio must be art. At this point art became more of an activity and less of a product.' Exploring Nauman's relationship to the place where he creates his strikingly original works, Bruce Nauman: The True Artist retraces back to the artist's youth in Fort Wayne, Indiana, his graduate work at the University of California, Davis, through to the present day. Nauman's continual search for new means and sources of expression have led him to experiment with a very wide variety of medium (photography, performance, sculpture, installations, video, neon sign, and sound) as well as to explore the relationship between words and images. Nauman's apotheosis as one of the world's most highly lauded artists came as he was ranked No. 1 in the world by Artfacts.net in 2006, and he was the sole US representative in the American Pavilion at the 2009 Venice Biennale. Peter Plagens, best known to the general public for his work as art critic at Newsweek, has known Nauman for over forty years, and in his own words describes this book as 'about my trying to get at the real truth of Bruce Nauman's work'. They first met in 1970, when their studios were a block apart in Pasadena, California, and they played basketball together every Sunday. Since then Plagens has pursued a real understanding of his friend's art and in this book presents it from his uniquely insightful perspective, including chronicling as it happened the creation of works in Nauman's studio in Galisteo, New Mexico, and the organization, installation and reception of his exhibitions. Throughout, Plagens is a savvy and engaging guide to the work, using his own attempts to puzzle out the meaning of the pieces, and the artist's conversations about them, to offer the reader a vivid, personal and enlightening take on one of the key figures in contemporary art.
"Bruce Nauman is known for almost always saying no to retrospectives, interviews, or anything else that might "totalize," as he's said to put it, his work and career. So this month's publication of Phaidon's monograph on the artist, "Bruce Nauman: The True Artist," is a red letter occasion, if only because it represents one of the rare moments when Nauman said yes. Written by Peter Plagens, an abstract painter who was the art critic for "Newsweek" from 1989 to 2003, the book has been in the works since 2008 - or even longer, if you count the fact that Phaidon's co publisher, Amanda Renshaw, had been trying to get Nauman to agree to a project since she joined the company more than 20 years ago. . .While Nauman looms as a cross between the Marlboro Man and an art world Greta Garbo, Plagens is an unrepentant chatterbox who tends toward mighty digressions. But that's also what makes the book such a delight. Full of riffs on subjects ranging from the use of neon in art to the history of the Venice Biennale, it's as much a social history of the modern day art world as it is a guide to Nauman's life and career." - Carol Kino, "The Wall Street Journal""An astute observer of the contemporary art scene from his days as Nauman's neighbor in 1970s Los Angeles, Plagens gives us a vivid vignette of the artist. . .This book will remain the definitive monograph for years to come." - ARTnews"In this meticulous authorized monograph, critic Plagens, a longtime friend of Nauman, weaves historical context, critical perspective, and his own reflections to study the career of one of the most, if not the most, influential artists of the last half century." - "Publishers Weekly""Plagens's new book on Nauman is the closest I, and most of the world, may ever get to the artist." - Justin Jones, The Daily Beast"[Plagens] seeks to view the subject whole. His approach is not one of scholarly distance but of personal engagement and strong opinion."
Peter Plagens is best known to the general public for his work as art critic and senior writer at Newsweek. He is also a frequent contributor to periodicals including Aperture, Art in American, Artforum and The New York Times. Plagens has also written a classic history of modern art on the West Coast (Sunshine Muse) and an anthology of his art criticism (Moonlight Blues). In addition, he has written many catalogue essays notably for the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume and the Irish Cultural Center in Paris, and The Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth. He is also a painter whose work has appeared in many exhibitions, including a retrospective at the University of Southern California in 2004.