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The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (Window or Wall Sign)

Bruce Nauman, American, born 1941

Date:
1967

Medium:
Neon

Dimensions:
59 x 55 x 2 inches (149.9 x 139.7 x 5.1 cm)

Copyright:
© Bruce Nauman / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Curatorial Department:
Modern and Contemporary Art

Object Location:

* Gallery 170, Modern and Contemporary Art, first floor

Accession Number:
2007-44-1

Credit Line:
Purchased with the generous support of The Annenberg Fund for Major Acquisitions, the Henry P. McIlhenny Fund, the bequest (by exchange) of Henrietta Meyers Miller, the gift (by exchange) of Philip L. Goodwin, and funds contributed by Edna Andrade, 2007

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1960s culture [x]   duchamp influenced [x]   installation [x]   language [x]   literary [x]   looking to write [x]   mass produced materials [x]   neon [x]   neon lights [x]   recognizable [x]   semiotic [x]   spiral [x]   statement [x]   text [x]  


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Label:
The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (Window or Wall Sign), one of Nauman’s first neons, is a founding work in his career. Hijacking a medium generally associated with the tawdry (cheap motels, shop windows, and bars), Nauman's sign advertises a metaphysical and deeply personal message as if it were for sale. Throughout his long and illustrious career, Nauman has examined the role and responsibilities of the artist. The title statement of this poetic spiral is neither entirely facetious nor completely serious, and the contradictions embodied in the piece yield an ambiguity that is both playful and profound.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Over the past four decades, Bruce Nauman has become a cornerstone of contemporary artistic practice through his maverick use of mediums--encompassing photography, neon, film and video, installation, drawing, sculpture, and printmaking--and his continual investigation into often paradoxical and conceptual uses of language and the body. In 1967, Nauman had recently completed his MFA at the University of California, Davis, and was newly cast into the world as young artist pondering his role in society. A relic of his San Francisco street-level studio's former capacity as a grocery store-a still-functioning neon beer sign-propelled Nauman's creation of this seminal Window or Wall Sign, which he hung in the window facing the street. By commandeering the commercial medium of neon for an artist statement, Nauman both proclaims the importance of the "true artist's" role and implies its inherent quixotic ambition. At once forward and facetious, lofty and self-aware, Window or Wall Sign asks its reader to participate in determining the validity of its declaration. Erica Battle, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections, 2009.


* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.

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