ARTIST ROOMS artist essay
The conceptual artist Jenny Holzer was born in Ohio in 1950 and studied in Chicago and New York where she now lives and works. She first came to prominence in the late 1970s and throughout her career, has used provocative statements in exhibitions or other public places to elicit debate. Her text-based works present and call into question the rhetorical strategies of different forms of speech and writing, from philosophical tracts to fundamentalist preaching. Holzer has used a wide range of media through which to disseminate her texts – from posters and marble benches, electronic LED signs and vast, monumental projections against buildings. In her recent work she has drawn on texts found from other sources rather than writing her own prose. In 2007 she made a series of silkscreen prints from declassified and redacted US government documents to explore issues around censorship and torture. This aspect of her work holds a powerful sense of protest, but Holzer has also made works using love poems to explore intimate emotions and texts that rejoice in place or time.
The works in ARTIST ROOMS demonstrate the flexibility of Holzer’s approach to both her media and text. BLUE PURPLE TILT consists of seven double-sided vertical LED signs on which a selection of messages from the artist’s early text series run, effectively creating a retrospective of her text-based practice. Protect Protect and Shape the Battlefield are two large paintings from 2007 in which Holzer presents declassified American military documents relating to the war in Iraq.