16 November, 2010

16 November - Bruce Nauman at Sperone Westwater

LAUNCHPROJECTS - While in New York we attended a private reception at Sperone Westwater for the latest Bruce Nauman exhibition For Children/For Beginners. The brand new Bowery space is a 25 by 100 footprint that includes 12 by 20 foot “moving gallery” - a very large elevator - approved as an "amusement ride" by the city of New York. The space is chic and a bit daunting to behold and the clean white interior worked well for Nauman’s site-specific audio and video installations.
Nauman’s installations enveloped the gallery, a projection of his hands filled the massive front wall with his voice calling out commands for his fingers to follow. I loved that it was his voice this time that commanded the room and his movements. The moving gallery was comprised three precarious (yet surprisingly comfortable) stools with only an elevator operator and the sounds of Terry Allen following Nauman’s instructions to play on the piano. The dynamic cacophony moved us slowly to the third floor where a clean white room held an audio installation of voices repeating over and over For the Children.
Nauman’s work perpetually poses challenges, creates tension, and heightens awareness through disorientation, frustration, awe, confusion, anger, and humor. The new Sperone Westwater exhibition space engages audiences in a similar manner. We found ourselves uncomfortably laughing at the opening as we heard voices and saw glimpses of people moving throughout the space, yet bodies and voices disappeared as we arrived to each floor to meet them. The gallery unquestionably boasts a white-cube Nauman/Hitchcockian mystique yet inherent in its design is a sense of isolation and frustration – even the staff has to have a surveillance camera base operator to find one-another throughout the day.
Fitting that the space dedicated to Nauman’s ongoing explorations dealt with the same limitations of space, comfort, and possibility; but it begs the question how other artists – painters, for instance – might manage such a maze of levels, heights, and vertiginous spaces.
Pictured: The gallery from the street; In the elevator with Juliet Myers, the installation from the second floor balcony

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