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A dynamic and vibrant work, both in colour and message, Eat War by Bruce Nauman is a political challenge that alternates staccato flashes in neon hues of green and red. The irony is thick, the aesthetic charge is dazzling, as the artist sets up a rhythmic counterpoint that challenges the viewer to confront their own experiential thresholds.
The words and their ‘message’ reside in friction. In a sense, both actions — eating and warring — are acts of devouring, referencing the culture of spectacle and consumption, the nature of advertising and the desire for immediate gratification and instant information. Perhaps the gulf between the two is not so vast after all.
Bruce Nauman began working with neon in the 1960s, creating unusual, off-kilter works that mocked Minimalism by taking its core principles of replication, repetition and hard-edged geometric forms and representing them in exaggerated form. In Eat War, executed in 1986, tensions are explored between the artist and viewer and between language and experience. Laconic, yet replete with meaning, Eat War is a visceral experience and an exhilarating work of art.
Bruce Nauman (b. 1941), Eat War, 1986. Neon tubing with clear glass tubing in suspension frame. 5 3/8 x 31 1/4 x 2 in. (13.7 x 79.4 x 5.1 cm.) This work is number two from an edition of three. This work is offered in the Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale on 10 May at Christie’s New York