Body Works: Bruce Nauman, Valie Export, Gabriel Orozco, Joan Jonas, and Louise Bourgeois

Feb 7–Apr 3, 1999

MoMA PS1

Body Works is an exhibition of conceptual and non-narrative pieces by five prominent contemporary artists that explores the vast meanings connected with the structure of the human body. Including works by Bruce Nauman, VALIE EXPORT, Gabriel Orozco, Joan Jonas, and Louise Bourgeois, this exhibition looks at the body’s occupation of space and its relationship to systems of measurement and geometry. The works also possess a potent sexuality as formal systems allow the artists to transgress social taboos of examining and representing the body. Body Works is presented simultaneously as a contrast to Primarily Structural: abstracted realism against abstracted structure.

Louise Bourgeois’ Nature Study #5, 1995, a pink, rectangular block of marble and steel, is the first work audiences will see upon entering the Body Works gallery. Initially visible as merely a chunk of marble, the sculpture ironically adopts the cube and hard sculptural materials in contrast to its soft color. Upon inspection, the work has an enclosure filled with multiple abstracted breast shapes formed in the material. At the opposite end of the gallery is Bruce Nauman’s Black Balls (1969), a video projection taken from a film of the artist smearing black paint on his testicles. Filmed at close range and framed always by the same square of the screen, the film shows an excruciatingly slow, simple action measured against a ticking sound in the background of the high-speed film camera.

On the gallery walls are photographic works by VALIE EXPORT and Joan Jonas. A group of twenty-four photographs by VALIE EXPORT from 1972 and 1976 show the artist crouched around the edge of a wall, or bridging her body over a dune. These forms define the structure of her body, which is further emphasized by colored lines drawn over several of the photographs. Joan Jonas photographs of her Mirror Pieces from 1968-1971 show performers moving around a stage in formal patterns toting mirrors which divide and fragment their space as well as the audience’s. Gabriel Orozco’s photograph Waiting Chairs (1998), looks at a void left behind by bodies, showing three chairs in a train station, stained by grease marks left by hair from the many bodies that have occupied the seats.

Body Works is co-curated by Alanna Heiss and Klaus Biesenbach.

Artists

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