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Partial Truth

Partial Truth

Bruce Nauman Partial Truth 1997 A two-color silkscreen with embossing and one-color etching both printed on Lana Gravure paper

Edition of 50
Image/plate size: 18 x 23 7/8 inches each (45.7 x 60.6 cm each)
Paper size: 22 7/16 x 28 5/16 inches each (57 x 71.9 cm each)
Signed, numbered and dated lower right in graphite on each sheet
(Inventory #32247)

In a 2001 interview with the curator Joan Simon, Nauman explained where the idea for the Partial Truth series came from:
“It was the year that Susan [Rothenberg] and I had sublet a loft in New York. Konrad [Fischer, the art dealer] had heard about that. He called and said, ‘Bruce, I hear you’re moving to New York.’ I said. ‘No, well maybe partly. This is partly true.’” (Joan Simon, ‘Bruce Nauman: Vices and Virtues: Interview’, 2001, in Janet Kraynak (ed.), Please Pay Attention Please: Bruce Nauman’s Words, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2003, pp. 392–3.)

The “Partial Truth” series consists of a black granite slab (which was partially done as an ode to Fischer after he passed away), a blind embossing made from the granite slab, and the pair of works presented here, each with the words ‘PARTIAL TRUTH’ displayed in the Roman-style lettering “scriptura monumentalis”. The words ‘PARTIAL TRUTH’ resist confirming completeness, implying that not all is what it seems, which is very much the case for the pair that Krakow Witkin Gallery is presenting.

One element of the pair is a two-color silkscreen with embossing. The “scratchy” line work of the words give an informed viewer the impression that it is an etching. This conclusion is supported by how the work has a rectangular indentation running approximately 2 1/4 inches in from the edges. The indentation is to be read as the “plate mark” from the etching plate used to create the image. However, the image was actually created using a positive image of Nauman’s plan for “Partial Truth” as printed through a silkscreen with no etching plate needed and thus the indentation was added as a separate gesture to reference etching. So… the image of “Partial Truth” is only partially true and the question remains as to how much of it is truth.

This visual play that is so indicative of Nauman’s oeuvre continues in the second element. This time, the plate mark truly is from the copper etching plate used to create the image of “Partial Truth” (which is backwards this time). The “partial” truth of this element is that the image of Nauman’s plan was used to create the etching plate and so, when it was printed onto paper, the image of the text printed in reverse, so while the etching plate has the “actual” image of “Partial Truth”, the printed image from the plate is a reverse of that. This begs the question, “What is the reverse of ‘Partial Truth’?”

Nauman has spent a career using simple means to express the conundrums of life in serious and playful means. “Partial Truth” does just that.