House Divided 1983
Artist: Bruce Nauman (American, b. 1941)
Materials: cast concrete
Provenance: Commissioned by the Governors State University Foundation
Born in Evansville, Indiana in 1941, Bruce Nauman attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the University of California, Davis, receiving his MFA in 1966. House Divided is his first large outdoor artwork. The piece is an enigmatic, yet ultimately illustrative, example of the way he works.
Nauman draws on Midwestern roots for the form of this sculpture. The viewer is confronted with a large white building—typical of Midwestern farming sheds. When we step inside we are surprised to find the structure has, in fact, been divided in half, diagonally. Three entries to the outside create an uncomfortable space with no corners. Fully half of the structure has been rendered useless. The very private artist, he lives with his wife on a remote ranch in New Mexico, has observed that sometimes sculptures are created that appear to have a function, but when examined, don't. Ultimately, the object's function is for the viewer to ponder.
When visiting the campus in 1983, Nauman said he, ". . . wanted to make some kind of art statement, and social statement – at the same time not be overbearing, to force people into something they don’t want to have to do with."
By associating the piece through its title with Abraham Lincoln's House Divided speech, the artist forces the visitor to consider the significance of this unassuming work on a new level. In the end, Nauman challenges the passerby to address their curiosity, visit his House Divided, and confront their own expectations of where architecture ends and sculpture begins.