Truisms And Inflammatory Essays

On By In 1

Selections from Truisms, Inflammatory Essays, The Living Series, The Survival Series, Under a Rock, Laments, and Child Text

1991
Jenny Holzer (American, born in 1950)


Dimensions

Overall (light box): 23.8 x 366.1 x 6.5 cm (9 3/8 x 144 1/8 x 2 9/16 in.) Overall (transformer box): 17.8 x 109.2 x 9.5 cm (7 x 43 x 3 3/4 in.)

Accession Number

1991.1099

Medium or Technique

L.E.D. (light-emitting diode) electronic-display signboard in three colors (yellow, green, red).

On View

Henry and Lois Foster Gallery (Gallery 158)

Collections

Americas, Contemporary Art

Classifications

Electronic media

In 1977 Holzer created Truisms, her first all-text compositions. She typed “one-liners,” had them printed commercially, and pasted them up as posters on the street. Later, Holzer placed her words on such familiar, ubiquitous objects as LED signs, T-shirts, and stickers. Variously insightful, hostile, or comic, these words and phrases express multiple viewpoints and arouse multiple responses. As the artist intended, numerous people have read her words and been amused, challenged, or provoked.

In 1990 the Museum of Fine Arts commissioned Holzer to create this LED sign for the collection. The artist chose to include excerpts from seven different series created between 1977 and 1990, each selection appearing in a different typeface and format. The words stream at varying speeds, and the tone is constantly changing-aggressive to mild, authoritative to questioning, practical to fear inducing. The result is a blend of familiarity and confusion that puts Holzer’s artwork squarely in the modern age of advertising slogans, newspaper headlines, and sound bites.

Provenance

The artist; with Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York, 1991; to MFA, Boston, 1991

Credit Line

Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow Fund

Copyright

© 2017 Jenny Holzer / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Jenny Holzer is an American conceptual artist best known for her text-based works, which are constructed from "truisms" such as "abuse of power comes as no surprise" and "protect me from what I want." By experimenting with the use of words visually displayed in public spaces, Holzer is able to stimulate public discussions about violence, sexuality, oppression, human rights, feminism ...

Jenny Holzer is an American conceptual artist best known for her text-based works, which are constructed from "truisms" such as "abuse of power comes as no surprise" and "protect me from what I want." By experimenting with the use of words visually displayed in public spaces, Holzer is able to stimulate public discussions about violence, sexuality, oppression, human rights, feminism, power, war, and death. Starting with street posters, Holzer's practice has come to incorporate LED screens that run with stock-ticker-like texts, painted signs, plaques, photographs, sound, video, and the Internet.

Until 1993, Holzer wrote her own texts, after which she began to appropriate texts by Polish Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska and other champions of human rights, including Elfriede Jelinek, Fadhil Al-Azawi, Yehuda Amichai, and Mahmoud Darwish. Recent works include I Was in Baghdad Ochre Fade (2007), a series of oil on linen transcriptions of torture documents from the Iraq War; Redaction Paintings (2009), which were created using recently released classified memos with texts blacked out by censors; and an installation in the lobby of 7 World Trade Center. In 1990, she was the first woman to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale, where she won the Golden Lion for the best artist.

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