Bruce McLean (b. 1944, Glasgow) studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1961 - 1963 and at Central St. Martin's in London from 1963 - 1966, where he was taught by Sir Anthony Caro, Phillip King, Bill Tucker, Isaac Witkin and Peter Atkins. The course was rigorous and encouraged a questioning enquiry into the nature of sculpture past, present and future. In response, McLean began to make sculptures out of rubbish and impermanent materials such as water, and using his own body created action sculptures, often impersonating works by well-known artists. This visionary way of thinking paved the way to McLean becoming one of the pioneers of the development of conceptual art in Britain in the 1960s. Often working outside in the urban and suburban landscape, some of his works brilliantly sent up the solemnity of the art world and mocked established art forms. In 1972, at the age of 27, he was given a one-day retrospective at the Tate Gallery (King for a Day).
During the mid-1970s Mclean continued experimenting with performance but began to push further with his painting, sculpture, and film work. In 1985, he won the Mercedes Benz Painting Prize, the John Moores Painting Prize, and began teaching as a Senior Lecturer at Slade School of Art in London, where he eventually became Head of Graduate Painting and Professor of Fine Art (2002-2010). Since retiring from teaching, Mclean continues to work in his studio in West London. He has obtained international recognition for his paintings, prints, film, theatre and books and his bold and confident approach to printmaking has proved influential to his contemporaries as well as a generation of younger artists. The making of prints and posters has been a central aspect of his work and continues to inform his sculptural investigations today.
Mclean’s work is held in private and public collections world-wide, including Tate (London), Victoria & Albert Museum (London), the National Museum of Modern Art (Edinburgh), and the British Council. He has participated in many major international exhibitions since the 1960s, including solo exhibitions at Kunsthalle in Basel (1981), Whitechapel Art Gallery in London (1983), and retrospective solo shows at Tate Gallery (1972 and 1985). Mclean has also shown in some of the major group shows of the twentieth century, including ‘Art in the Seventies’ in the Central Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1980), ‘A New Spirit in Painting’ at the Royal Academy of Arts in London (1981), ‘Zeitgeist’ at Martin-Gropius-Bau Gallery in Berlin, Germany (1982), and ‘Documenta 7’ at Museum Fredericianum in Kassel, Germany (1982), and his fifty year survey show ‘Bruce McLean: Sculpture, Painting, Photography, Film’ at firstsite in Colchester (2014).