Artworks
Human Nature/Life Death/Knows Doesn't Know
0
Be the first to vote…
jtucker's picture

Contributor

If you need a cold hard dose of reality, Nauman just might be your guy. Bruce Nauman has made a career out of berating people with the less than savory aspects of the human condition, and surprisingly, people love him for it.

Nauman knows how cruel humans can be. This is probably why he hides out on a 600-acre ranch where he spends his day breaking horses and avoiding people. When he is not dominating horses, he is making art that does pretty much the exact same thing to our minds. If Nauman’s work makes you uncomfortable, you are not alone. In fact, he takes great pleasure in infiltrating your brain with sinister images that are bound to keep you up at night. As Nauman once said of his own work, it's "like getting hit in the face with a baseball bat. Or better, like getting hit in the back of the neck. You never see it coming; it just knocks you down." Well that’s nice. So now you have been warned, brace yourself when you know Nauman’s work is in the house.  

Nauman loves to play with language. He finds the human condition to be the most frustrating thing out there, and language is one of the key ways we perpetuate our finicky tendencies. Nauman utilizes palindromes, spoonerisms, puns, and anagrams, which surely softens the blow of constant ridicule that Nauman is raining down on us through his neon signage.

This brings us to his fascination with dichotomies. He loves to play with them just to point out the human potential for volatility. My personal favorite play on words Nauman has utilized is probably Run From Fear/Fun in Rear. Now some people say Nauman is a downer, but to me, it sounds like Nauman knows a good time when he sees one.

Here we have one of his classic neon signs. While Nauman has been known to dabble in pretty much every media, his neon signs are iconic. They are also one of the most effective ways of communicating his displeasure with society. In this piece, words such as human, nature, life, animal, and care flicker in contrast with their opposites such as like pain, death, and doesn’t care. It is almost like he is trying to guilt trip us into being better people...but will it work?