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to start out every day

May 23, 2009

[Newsweek] Some people say that Bruce Nauman is the most influential American artist since Andy Warhol, but when Nauman arrived at art school way back in 1964, he had almost no idea where he was headed. Fresh from being a math and science student back in Wisconsin, the tall, laconic young Nauman painted the most mundane of subjects: landscapes. “I thought art was just something I’d learn how to do, and then I would just do it,” he says. He’d landed almost by chance at the University of California, Davis, home to the most rebellious, irreverent artist-teachers around. (One of them, ceramist Robert Arneson, would have his officially commissioned monument to assassinated San Francisco Mayor George Moscone rejected in 1981 because it depicted the Twinkies from the assassin’s “Twinkies defense” right there on its pedestal.) The faculty gave Nauman an empty room in a temporary building and told him simply to go to work. “I knew then,” he says, “that I’d have to start out every day and figure out what art was going to be.”

From then on, with each and every work he’s made, Nauman has started back at square one, as if neither he nor anyone else had created any previous art to refer to. (read)

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