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Bruce Nauman

Self Portrait as a Fountain

1966-67, printed 1970


Eleven Color Photographs

On View

Floor 3

Susan and John Hess Family Gallery


Bruce Nauman (1941-)


Self Portrait as a Fountain


Eleven Color Photographs


1966-67, printed 1970


Chromogenic print


Sheet (sight): 20 1/16 × 23 15/16 in. (51 × 60.8 cm) Image (sight): 19 1/2 × 23 1/4 in. (49.5 × 59.1 cm)

Edition information


Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase

Accession number


Object Label

Self-Portrait as a Fountain is one of Bruce Nauman’s Photographic Suite of eleven photographs based on puns. The portfolio reveals Bruce Nauman’s interest in the functions of language, as he humorously depicts literal interpretations of common phrases. In Self-Portrait as a Fountain, Nauman questions the traditional role of the artist. He depicts himself shirtless, with raised arms and open palms, spewing an arc of water out of his pursed lips, in imitation of the nude statues customarily found in decorative fountains. Thus the artist and the work of art become one and the same. During the period in which he made this work, Nauman used the statement “The true artist is an amazing luminous fountain” in a number of text-based works. This playful illustration of the statement satirizes the cliché of the artist as a prolific genius who spews forth a steady stream of masterpieces. Self-Portrait as a Fountain also pays homage to Marcel Duchamp‘s notorious Fountain (1917)a readymade porcelain urinal that Duchamp provocatively exhibited as a sculpture. Like Fountain, Nauman’s Self-Portrait as a Fountain subverts conventional definitions of what constitutes a work of art.

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