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Art Gallery of Ontario presents acclaimed American artist Bruce Nauman in his own words

Rarely seen works by the “contemporary classic” artist mix humour and text

TORONTO — Words have always inspired the American sculptor, photographer and performance artist Bruce Nauman. An exhibition featuring his rarely seen works on paper — known as word images — explores the artist’s fascination with language through a survey of works from the 1970s and ’80s. Opening at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on March 1 and running until May 4, 2014, Bruce Nauman’s Words on Paper invites visitors to consider these word images alongside quotes and commentary by the artist.

Drawn from the AGO collection and curated by Kitty Scott, the Gallery’s curator of modern and contemporary art, this is the first exhibition of his prints at the AGO since 1994. In addition to the works on paper, the exhibition will feature the video installation Good Boy Bad Boy (1985) and the neon sculpture Double Poke in the Eye II (1984). The majority of works in the exhibition are generous gifts to the AGO from renowned Toronto collectors David and Vivian Campbell.

“Bruce Nauman is widely recognized as one of our most significant and influential living artists,” says Scott. “Language is one of his most important subjects, studied in many different ways. This exhibition shows his important exploration of the print medium, one of the forms through which he’s examined our shared linguistic world."

Since coming to prominence in the mid-1960s, Nauman (b. 1941) has produced a body of work notable for its audacity, biting social commentary and penetrating humour. Described by the Washington Post as a “contemporary classic,” Nauman has had his work recently exhibited at the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, the Berkeley Art Museum, Castello di Rivoli and the Menil Collection. In 2009 Nauman represented the United States at the Venice Biennale, one of the most significant feats a living artist can achieve.

Using various devices to deconstruct language and challenge viewers, Nauman’s word images often feature puns and oxymorons, linking contradictory words in alliterative strings. In his 1985 etching Violins/Violence, Nauman creates a pun that is verbal, visual and aural, playing these two homonyms against each other and the imagined scratches made by his etching pen. Similarly, the lithograph Tone Mirror (1974) reverses familiar words to present a new, more literal meaning.

Art historian Christopher Régimbal will present a talk on Bruce Nauman’s Words on Paper during the March 6, 2014 edition of AGO First Thursdays. For tickets and more information, please visit

AGO members receive free admission to Bruce Nauman’s Words on Paper. More information on the benefits of AGO membership can be found at

This exhibition is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario.

The AGO acknowledges the generous support of its Signature Partners: American Express, Signature Partner of the Conservation Program; and Aimia, Signature Partner of the Photography Collection Program.

Contemporary programming at the AGO is generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.

With a collection of more than 80,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. From the vast body of Group of Seven and signature Canadian works to the African art gallery, from the cutting-edge contemporary art to Peter Paul Rubens’ masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, the AGO offers an incredible art experience with each visit. In 2002 Ken Thomson’s generous gift of 2,000 remarkable works of Canadian and European art inspired Transformation AGO, an innovative architectural expansion by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry that in 2008 resulted in one of the most critically acclaimed architectural achievements in North America. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase of wood and glass running the length of an entire city block, and the often-photographed spiral staircase, beckoning visitors to explore. The AGO has an active membership program offering great value, and the AGO’s Weston Family Learning Centre offers engaging art and creative programs for children, families, youth and adults. Visit to find out more about upcoming special exhibitions, to learn about eating and shopping at the AGO, to register for programs and to buy tickets or memberships.

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April 5 – July 20, 2014: Francis Bacon & Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty

The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO members, donors and private-sector partners.


For press inquiries, please contact:

Andrea-Jo Wilson; News Officer, AGO Communications
416-979-6660, ext. 403,

Laura Banks; News Officer, AGO Communications
416-979-6660, ext. 504,

Caitlin Coull; Manager, AGO Communications
416-979-6660, ext. 364,

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