Spotlight on Protest: Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer, <i>Purple Cross</i>, 2004. Electronic LED sign. Installation view: Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris. Photo by Attilio Maranzano. © 2007 Jenny Holzer, member Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York. Text: “Blur”, from MIDDLE EARTH by Henri Cole. Copyright © 2003 by Henri Cole. Used by/reprinted with permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Jenny Holzer was born in Gallipolis, Ohio in 1950. She received a BA from Ohio University in Athens (1972); an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence (1977); and honorary doctorates from the University of Ohio (1993), the Rhode Island School of Design (2003), and New School University, New York (2005). Whether questioning consumerist impulses, describing torture, or lamenting death and disease, Jenny Holzer’s use of language provokes a response in the viewer. While her subversive work often blends in among advertisements in public space, its arresting content violates expectations. Holzer’s texts—such as the aphorisms “abuse of power comes as no surprise” and “protect me from what I want”—have appeared on posters and condoms, and as electronic LED signs and projections of xenon light. Holzer’s recent use of text ranges from silk-screened paintings of declassified government memoranda detailing prisoner abuse, to poetry and prose in a 65-foot wide wall of light in the lobby of 7 World Trade Center, New York. She has received many awards, including the Golden Lion from the Venice Biennale (1990); the Skowhegan Medal (1994); and the Diploma of Chevalier (2000) from the French government. Major exhibitions include the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2001); Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (1997); Dia Art Foundation, New York (1989); and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1989). Since 1996, Holzer has organized public light projections in cities worldwide. She was the first woman to represent the United States in the Venice Biennale (1990). Jenny Holzer lives and works in Hoosick Falls, New York.

Jenny Holzer, <i>MEMORANDUM FOR CONDOLEEZZA RICE (GREEN)</i>, 2006. Oil on linen triptych, 33 x 76 1/2 inches, 33 x 25 1/2 each panel unique.

Jenny Holzer, <i>ARNO</i>, 1996. Xenon projection approx. 100 x 115 feet. Installed at Palazzo Bargagli, Florence, September 1996.

About her text-based projections, Jenny Holzer says,

“I want the meaning to be available but I also want it sometimes to disappear into fractured reflections or into the sky. Because one’s focus comes and goes, one’s ability to understand what’s happening ebbs and flows. I like the representation of language to be the same. This tends not only to give the content to people, but it will also pull them to attend.”

(taken from the companion book Art in the Twenty-First Century 4, p. 22).

Jenny Holzer, <i>OH</i>, 2001. Electronic LED signs; amber diodes. Permanently installed at the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin. Inaugurated February 2001.

Read more about her work and watch additional clips on her Art:21 webpage here.

Have you experienced Holzer’s work in person, or did you have an opportunity to view her segment in one of the hundreds of Art21 Access ‘07 events that have been taking place all month? Share your thoughts on Jenny Holzer by leaving a comment below.