Bruce Nauman: For Beginners
Early in his career, Bruce Nauman came to the conclusion 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.”
For Beginners (all the combinations of the thumb and fingers) stacks two frames of video images of the artist’s hands with commentary on the different combinations he creates (like some sort of gestural painter, sans paint and canvas). His fingers shift as his voice delivers different commands.
Like his 1968 work Walk with Contrapposto, For Beginners… was created in the studio with a camera, the artist’s body and little else. Suggestive of a struggle between words and actions, the physical and the mental, Nauman forces us to look again at the simplest of our own gestures.
LACMA has collected works by Nauman representing each decade of the artist’s work since the late 1960s, not long after the artist graduated from the University of California, Davis.
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Image: Bruce Nauman, For Beginners (all the combinations of the thumb and fingers), 2010, HD video installation (color, stereo sound), continuous play, 2 HD video sources, 2 HD video projectors, 4 speakers, dimensions variable. Image courtesy Sperone Westwater, New York. © 2011 Bruce Nauman / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
It’s easy to describe Bruce Nauman’s For Beginners (all the combinations of the thumb and fingers). There it is, right in the title: two sets of hands displayed on a large, two-sided screen, palms facing out as two voices command different combinations of fingers and thumbs to close. Five fingers in a row, combinations of four fingers in a row, three fingers, and so on.