Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Naumann’s father worked for General Electric as an engineer, which kept the family moving through most of Nauman’s childhood. He graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison (1960-64), where he studied mathematics and physics. He then went on to study art at the University of California, Davis (1965-66) under William T. Wiley and Robert Arneson. It was in this period that he began to dedicate himself to performance, sculpture, and cinema.
Nauman’s style is completely his own. He focuses on how procedure and action can alter or evolve into art. Ever changing and evolving, each piece is intrinsically Nauman. His work stresses meaning over aesthetics, with wordplay and irony being common themes throughout his work. These are used to involve the observer in questions about alienation and existence. His work often creates an un-settling response in his viewers, engaging them in a way that makes them aware of their own physicality.
He has shown across the globe since the mid-sixties, and is represented in both public and private collections worldwide. He resides and works in New Mexico.