I’m feeling more and more that Bruce Nauman is the most important, influential artist of the last 40 years. This is partly because we never know what to expect from him. His mind has a style but his images don’t. In this drawing, he’s turned a human body part into a distillation of offensiveness: His detached arms simultaneously give us the finger, times four, and describe a swastika. Yet this overdetermined combination, with its delicious and delicate execution, helps defang both symbols and make them ludicrous. The piece, made in 1986 and titled “Swastika/Prayer Wheel” (talk about hedging your bets) is from the collection of Laura-Lee and Robert Woods. It is now on show at the Museum of Modern Art in a fascinating show called “Exquisite Corpses”, all about anatomical and artistic recombination.
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