Lot 9
  • 9


1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
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  • Bruce Nauman
  • Eat War
  • neon tubing with clear glass tubing suspension frame
  • 5 3/8 by 31 1/4 by 2 in. 13.7 by 79.4 by 5.1 cm.
  • Executed in 1986, this work is number one from an edition of three.


Leo Castelli Gallery, New York (LC #254)
Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles
Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago
Josh Baer Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in October 1987


Hempstead, Emily Lowe Gallery, Hofstra University, Maelstrom: Contemporary Images of Violence, April - June 1986, pp. 20 and 24, illustrated (edition no. unknown)
Boston, Thomas Segal Gallery, Salute to Leo Castelli, November 1986 - January 1987 (edition no. unknown) 
New York, Josh Baer Gallery, Schizophrenia, September 1987 (the present example) 
Los Angeles, Margo Leavin Gallery, Bruce Nauman, June - August 1988 (edition no. 3/3) 
New York, Van de Weghe Fine Art, Bruce Nauman: Neons Sculptures Drawings, October - December 2002, p. 25, illustrated in color (edition no. 3/3)


Neal Benezra, et. al., Bruce Nauman: Catalogue Raisonné, Minneapolis, 1994, p. 300, no. 353, illustrated 

Catalogue Note

“My work is basically an outgrowth of the anger I feel about the human condition. The aspects of it that make me angry are our capacity for cruelty and the ability people have to ignore situations they don’t like.” (Bruce Nauman quoted in Philippe Bidaine, Bruce Nauman, Hayward Gallery, London, 1998, p. 27) Eat War, one of Nauman’s groundbreaking neon works, underscores the conceptualist rigor and subtle humor that defines the artist’s relevant, experimental and heterogeneous oeuvre. At once alluding to the complexity of linguistic construction and immersing viewers in an exhilarating thought-provoking experience, Eat War exemplifies Nauman’s radically yet irreverent contemporary art practice. The work commands a captivating presence due to the bright red and green neon tubing that gives shape to the work’s evocative terms. In an exacting alternating fashion, the words “EAT” and “WAR” flash before the viewer, creating a syncopated rhythm that is equally as meditative as it is foreboding. The seemingly infinite repetition of this illuminative cycle catalyzes a self-conscious exercise in viewers, one that leads them to reflect more deeply on the meaning of these loaded terms, and more interestingly, on their dialectical relationship.Nauman’s employment of neon began in the 1960s, initially with his satirical subversions of Minimal Art. Eventually, Nauman became transfixed by the elusive interworking of language and meaning. The artist theorized that meaning is generated through disjunction and simultaneity. As Nauman once remarked: “If you only deal with what is known, you’ll have redundancy; on the other hand, if you only deal with the unknown, you cannot communicate at all. There is always some combination of the two, and it is how they touch each other that makes communication interesting.” (Bruce Nauman, in R. Storr, “Beyond Words,” in K. Halbreich and Neal Benezra, Bruce Nauman, Minneapolis, 1994, p. 55) One observes the artist’s insightful realization in Eat War. Arguably, the friction between these concise, vivid words resolves under their shared basis in a culture of hyper-consumption and instant gratification. In other words, these two actions – eating and warring – both signify a “devouring” of sorts. Thus, in works like Eat War, philosophical linguistic musings graciously evolve into powerful social critiques.

Nauman’s confrontational works are gifted with a rare ability to disorient both the body and the intellect. In particular, Eat War showcases the artist’s perceptive, analytical deconstruction of aesthetic and physical experience. Mesmerizing viewers with its colorful staccato flashes, Nauman’s Eat War stands as a fine exemplar from one of today's greatest living conceptual artists, recently honored with a widely acclaimed retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.