As part of its commitment to showcasing contemporary art the Picasso Museum in Malaga (MPM) is hosting a powerful exhibition called Bruce Nauman. Rooms, Bodies, Words until 1 September. This is its most ambitious project so far, and on this occasion it has chosen to feature one of the most elusive, enigmatic, wild and radical artists on the contemporary scene. An artist at the crossroads between installation, performance, drawing, sculpture and video. A creator impossible to subject to a trend. A type of anti-hero who, from his retreat on a ranch in the southern USA, glimpses the contemporary artistic scene which is filled with fleeting celebrities.
"It has been a challenge for this museum to put on this exhibition," said the artistic director of the MPM, José Lebrero. It consists of nearly 100 works produced in the past four decades by an artist who is essential to the understanding of contemporary art in the past 50 years.
At the beginning of his career Nauman evolved towards performance and video and then launched himself into painting, drawing and installations which are close to architecture. On that journey, some elements have remained constant in his work: the body as a field of experimentation and knowledge, the relationship between sex and violence, the impossibility of words to transmit certain ideas and the role of art as a social and political weapon.
To start, an empty room
The way the works have been displayed is as unconventional as Nauman himself. The display extends from the exhibition rooms into the central patio and the archaeological remains at the Palacio de Buenavista.
There is an empty room, with bare walls, at the start of the exhibition. All you can hear, like a mantra, is someone saying 'For the children' like the title of the short pieces composed by Bela Bartok upon which Nauman has also worked.
"It may seem simple, but this is a work with a giant political message about children's future. This empty room asks "What type of world are we going to leave for our children?" says the curator of the exhibition, Eugen Blume.
Next, Corridor Installation (1970) features Nauman's experimentation with his own body. There is a wooden construction of four runners in different widths, through which the artist transmits the feeling of oppression and claustrophobia he often senses in society.
Nauman also works with neon lights to reflect upon the role of art and the relations between sex and violence. There are also sculptures portraying the dilemmas of physical and mental perception, and showing our fiercest and most shameless side.
This is not an easy exhibition to view. It has a harsh message to give, but the MPM board are confident that it will make people reflect and will also attract many younger visitors to the Picasso Museum for the first time.