Bruce Nauman finds inspiration in the activities, speech, and materials of everyday life. He has commented that, when confronted with the question of what to do in his studio soon after graduating from college in the mid-1960s, he had a simple but profound realization: “If I was an artist and I was in the studio, then whatever I was doing in the studio must be art.” Working in sculpture, video, film, printmaking, performance, and installation, Nauman is not concerned with developing a characteristic style. Instead, he is interested in the ways in which a process or activity can transform or become a work of art.
To create Green Horses, Nauman revisited his work from the 1960s, when he often used himself as a subject. Culled from footage depicting the artist engaged in the laborious process of putting a young horse through a series of paces, the film is periodically inverted, creating the impression that initially the horse is riding the man and, when Nauman is seen riding the horse, that the breaking process is nearly complete. The footage is presented on both a large-scale projection and two television monitors. The final configuration of the work’s installation is critically important and alludes to the editing process; you could imagine that the artist has left the room and you are momentarily privy to the act of artistic creation. Green Horses gives us the rare opportunity to assume the artist’s gaze by sitting in an empty chair, a continually recurring motif in Nauman’s work that serves as a surrogate for the artist himself.