Perfect Door/Perfect Odor/Perfect Rodo


Bruce Nauman ( American, 1941 )

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General Description

Bruce Nauman began working with neon in 1966 and his first neon, which he calls a sign and not a sculpture, appeared in the artist's grocery store in San Francisco. Since his earliest neon word-game sculptures, an important, recurring theme of Nauman's work is how the meaning of language is never fixed but always contextual. Nauman uses language as he uses his body in video and performances, as a formal tool and as a way to derive meaning from life's superficialities and absurdities.

With Perfect Door, Perfect Odor, Perfect Rodo, a simple word play and letter inversion in three shades of commercial white neon tubing, Nauman seamlessly joins form and content. His rhythmic and repetitive use of lettering creates a haunting, meditative investigation into the meaning of perfection and the importance of context in determining meaning. The phrase 'perfect door' expresses Nauman's interest in perfection as a philosophical concept, yet with the non-word 'rodo', he shows that perfection is impossible.

Adapted from

  • Suzanne Weaver, "Perfect Door/Perfect Odor/Perfect Rodo," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Suzanne Kotz (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997), 285.
  • "Bruce Nauman (1941- ) Perfect Door/Perfect Odor/Perfect Rodo." In Collections Records object file (1989.76).