Identity examines the works and artistic processes of artist Bruce Nauman, Kerry James Marshall, Maya Lin and Louise Bourgeois as an exploration of identity, stereotyping, self-awareness, and the familiar versus the foreign.
William Wegman’s interests in areas beyond painting led him to photography and the then-infant medium of video. While living in Long Beach, California, Wegman acquired Man Ray, the dog with whom he began a fruitful twelve-year collaboration. A central figure in Wegman’s photography and videos, Man Ray became known in the art world and beyond for his endearing, deadpan presence.
Bruce Nauman finds inspiration in the activities, speech, and materials of everyday life. Working in the diverse mediums of sculpture, video, film, printmaking, performance, and installation, Nauman concentrates less on the development of a characteristic style and more on the way in which a process or activity can transform or become a work of art.
Kerry James Marshall’s subject matter of his paintings, installations, and public projects is often drawn from African-American popular culture, and is rooted in the geography of his upbringing: “You can’t be born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1955 and grow up in South Central [Los Angeles] near the Black Panthers headquarters, and not feel like you’ve got some kind of social responsibility,” says Marshall. In his “Souvenir” series of paintings and sculptures, he pays tribute to the civil rights movement with mammoth printing stamps featuring bold slogans of the era (“Black Power!”) and paintings of middle-class living rooms, where ordinary African-American citizens have become angels tending to a domestic order populated by the ghosts of Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and other heroes of the 1960s.
Famous for her winning design of the Vietnam Veteran’s
Memorial, Maya Lin is shown transforming an urban park in Michigan in a work that identifies itself with its physical location; the project features a fibre optic skating rink that mimics the night sky. She was trained as an artist and architect, and her sculptures, parks, monuments, and architectural projects are linked by her ideal of making a place for individuals within the landscape. Lin, a Chinese-American, came from a cultivated and artistic home, she remarks: “As the child of immigrants, you have that sense of ‘Where are you? Where’s home?’ And trying to make a home.”
The works of Louise Bourgeois explore the themes of emotion and identity by taking inspiration from their own biography. Bourgeois’ installations, drawings, and public sculptures encourage their viewers to connect their own lives to the artwork. Her beginnings were as an engraver and painter, by the 1940s she had turned her attention to sculptural work, for which she is now recognized as a twentieth-century leader. Greatly influenced by the influx of European Surrealist artists who immigrated to the United States after World War II, Bourgeois’s early sculpture was composed of groupings of abstract and organic shapes, often carved from wood.
Art 21: Art in the 21st Century is an award-winning series of 24 programmes in which 100 contemporary artists explain their creations, their creative processes, and their perceptions of art. Available for the first time on DVD in the UK, Art21 covers a wide range of artists and cotemporary visual art.