Nan Goldin, Bruce in the Smoke, Pozzuoli, Italy, 1995. Silver dye bleach print (Cibachrome), 30 x 40 inches (76.2 x 101.6 cm). Gift of Beth and Anthony Terrana. Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery. © Nan Goldin
An influential artist known for her seemingly spontaneous, personal photographs of family and friends, Nan Goldin finds the unique and intimate embedded in the ordinary. Goldin has a long and significant history both in Boston and with the ICA/Boston: she studied at the Museum School of the Museum of Fine Arts and has been exhibited at the ICA seven times since 1984.
Goldin’s work has been celebrated for its “uncanny attention and attraction to the drama and the commonplace of life,” as Elizabeth Sussman wrote in the catalogue essay for Goldin’s Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition I’ll Be Your Mirror (1996). Bruce in the Smoke, Pozzuoli, Italy captures the artist’s ability to depict everyday theatricality, representing a highly stylized poetic strain, with its almost monochromatic palette and the obscured, crouching subject. In contrast with Goldin’s characteristic diary-like images, this photograph seems more formally conceived. Bruce in the Smoke, Pozzuoli, Italy celebrates the individual at the same time that it uncovers the inevitable solitude of the self. The light and smoke that surround the figure simultaneously reveal his presence and obscure his identity, offering hope and consolation at the same time that they expose the isolation and anonymity of the lone man, Bruce, on a beach in Pozzuoli, Italy.
Bruce in Smoke, Pozzuoli is one of a number of photographs by Goldin in the ICA/Boston’s collection and joins works by other artists who also examine identity and relationships through photography, including Rineinke Dijkstra and Catherine Opie.