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Black Stones Under Yellow Light
1987
Electrical installation and black marble blocks
Dimensions: 38 x 500 x 600 cm
Reference: ACF0362
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A series of themes emerges repeatedly in Bruce Nauman's heterogeneous and complex work. One of these themes -an analysis of the imposition of the processes of socialisation- acts as a backbone throughout his entire output, in particular from the end of the seventies onwards. The artist himself says that his work is "the product of the anger I feel over the human condition [...] Our potential for cruelty and people's ability to ignore situations we don't like exasperate me." The three works in the Fundació "la Caixa" Contemporary Art Collection reflect, to varying degrees, on these issues. Black Stones Under Yellow Light consists of 32 blocks of marble arranged in the shape of an X in a room illuminated by fluorescent lights that give off yellow light. The cubes of stone are in two slightly different sizes: some measure 34.9 cm along the edge, while others measure 38.1 cm. In 1975, Nauman presented Consummate Mask of Rock, his first work made of blocks of stone. In the following two years, he made ten similar works in which he plays in different ways with the geometrical arrangement of the blocks. Even though it was produced at a later date, Black Stone Under Yellow Light is based on a drawing from 1977, nor is this the first use of yellow light in Nauman's work (which appeared earlier in Yellow LightInstallation with, 1971). Our initial sensation as we enter the room is one of bewilderment. The acid light makes the space feel ominous, recalling the unpleasant situations which, according to Nauman, we all shut our eyes to. The small difference in the size of the marble cubes also creates a momentary feeling of disorientation. Is the floor not flat, or are our eyes deceiving us under this unpleasant light? This playing with the beholder's perceptions is reinforced by the way in which the blocks are laid out. From any point in the room, any attempt at movement seems to be opposed by the X-shape of the blocks, which stop the beholder from having any true control over their own actions: even though we can see the space, we can only walk following the directions that the stones have marked out for us. The resulting experience is clearly uncomfortable. In the face of the shattering of our expectations and our confrontation with that which is disagreeable, our instinctive reaction is to take flight. In this way, Nauman puts to the test our ability to bear hostile situations which our previous experience has not prepared us for. By a simple and forceful alteration in geometry and lighting, Nauman creates a space in which the web of political and social norms that govern our lives is revealed.

Other artworks in the Collection by the same artist Other artworks in the Collection by the same artist

  • Good Boy Bad Boy / 1985

  • Shit in your Hat - Head on a Chair / 1990

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