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.
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