Jenny Holzer first came to the attention of the general public in the late 1970s. Inspired by Manhattan’s graffiti scene, she began putting up anonymous street posters around the city. These so-called Inflammatory Essays featured excerpts from texts by left-wing intellectuals like Karl Marx and Susan Sontag, and soon began getting a response. ‘People would cross out ones they didn’t like and would star others,’ she explained. ‘I liked that people would engage with them.' This direct dialogue with her audience would become the foundation of her art.
Holzer was born in Gallipolis in Ohio. She gained her Masters in Fine Art at Rhode Island School of Design before taking a study programme at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1977. Her tutor gave her a colossal reading list which she reduced to a series of one-liners, and never looked back. This punk-like attitude fitted with the prevailing sentiments of the era. It was a time of cut-up philosophy defined by subversive slogans and texts. Holzer’s politically-charged statements embodied the rebellious spirit of the age. Her work prompted comparison with artists such Barbara Kruger and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
In 1982, Messages to the Public featured a series of aphorisms on a Spectacolor electronic sign in Times Square. Part of her Truisms series, it included now-iconic slogans such as ‘PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT’ and ‘ABUSE OF POWER COMES AS NO SURPRISE’. Holzer has been synonymous with the blinking LED light ever since. Her neon installations and projections can be hypnotic, with text scrolling across walls and floors in glowing lines of red and gold. Yet the subject matter is never soothing. She has addressed issues including rape, famine, climate change, murder, war and AIDS, and has used declassified government documents in her art.
As well as installation, Holzer's practice encompasses paintings, prints and sculpture: her marble benches Arno Pair (2010) sold for $1,560,000 at Christie’s New York in 2022, setting a new world record. Elsewhere she has also explored digital technology, notably through her 2020 augmented reality app YOU BE MY ALLY. In 2022, she created an NFT in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn abortion rights. Her work has also intersected with popular culture over the years, appearing on everything from T-shirts to Helmut Lang advertising campaigns and temporary tattoos.
Put Food Out in the Same Place Everyday and Talk to the People Who Come to Eat and Organize Them (Survival Series)
Olympian Sign: Selections from Truisms , The Living Series and The Survival Series
You can be a fat fighter of fascism if you never get off the couch and refuse to march in any direction. This isn't the only struggle though.