Executed in 1983, the monumental work on paper Life, Death, Love, Hate, Pleasure, Pain towers above us, presenting its six words as colorful yet inexorable facts. Nauman has linked these opposing extremes in his own colourful circle. Life, Death, Love, Hate, Pleasure, Pain allows Nauman to present these emotions and concepts in the language of our age, taking the scale and iconography of advertising to prompt us towards philosophy.
During the 1980s, Nauman began to rediscover the media and the concepts of some of his earlier works, not least his neon word groups. For some time, he had eschewed these in favor of installations, but now they reappeared, with new life breathed into them. Life, Death, Love, Hate, Pleasure, Pain is related to a large neon of the same name and design, also executed in 1983. In the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago this group of three word pairs, of opposing emotions and concepts, appeared in several of Nauman's works of the period, including his prize-winning Human Nature/Life Death, in the collection of the city of Chicago. However, in Life, Death, Love, Hate, Pleasure, Pain it is stripped down to its bare minimum; there are no other words, no distractions, and so Nauman leaves us contemplating these groups of words and the implication of the circle in which they have been arranged. In positioning the words in this way, Nauman hints at some cyclical aspect not only to life and death, but also to love and hate, pleasure and pain. He does so in a stark manner, placing the words, with no adornment, on a scale from which we cannot hide. There are no extraneous details, but instead an overriding, authoritative factuality.
Nauman's art does not focus on beauty, but on thought. He sees the role of the artist as that of a guide, exposing an underside of human nature of which the viewer is perhaps unaware, forcing us to think: 'Sunsets, flowers, landscapes: these kinds of things don't move me to do anything. I just want to leave them alone. My work comes out of being frustrated about the human condition' (Nauman, quoted in J. Simon, 'Breaking the Silence', pp.106-115, Bruce Nauman, ed. C. van Assche, exh. cat., London, 1998, p. 113).
Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and Marc Allegret, still from Anémic Cinema, 1926 c 2004 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp