Bruce Nauman’s early career neon pieces have reared up again as the focus of a new traveling exhibition, currently installed at San Diego’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Elusive Signs: Bruce Nauman Works with Light includes some of Nauman’s first neon works from the ’70s and ’80s, as well recent figurative neon works. Nauman’s art has always been both lighthearted and confrontational, making him a strange bridge between the serious post-modern conceptualists and the spectacle seekers that populated the ’70s and ’80s art world. He has worked in almost every medium, performance, printmaking, and video included, but neon has been a recurring theme throughout his career. Elusive Signs is at once a history lesson and a sensory experience; Nauman’s neon spans a range of art world hot topics, broaching identity politics, consumerism, illusion, and exhibitionism.
Originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana, Nauman received an MFA from University of California Davis in 1966 and began his career in San Francisco, teaching at the San Francisco Art Institute. Nauman received an NEA grant in 1968 and a Skowhegan Award in 1986. He will represent the United States in the 2009 Venice Biennale.