Since the late 1970s, Jenny Holzer has used language and many forms of address to examine society, beliefs, and the spaces in which an individual finds herself. From anonymous street posters to electronic signs, from stone benches to light projections, Holzer’s materials suggest a landscape spilling over with connotations, information, propaganda, and politics. Her texts—thirteen series written from 1977 to 2001—place the individual in that teeming landscape with language that speaks to the commonality of love, disaster, death, optimism, fear, and desire.
Sensibility is a barrage of language and light featuring texts from Holzer’s Survival series (1983-85). The blast of text shines the urgency in the sentences recited. The neutral black and white motif belies the variety of themes addressed and the voices called in to represent the heterogeneity of subjects. Survival is a cautionary text where each sentence instructs, informs, or questions the ways an individual responds to her political, social, physical, and psychological environments. The Survival texts were the first to be written especially for LED signs; the sentences are short and pointed so as to be easily available to passersby. “PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT” is a key text from the series.
For more than thirty years, Jenny Holzer has presented her astringent ideas, arguments, and sorrows in public places and international exhibitions, including 7 World Trade Center, the Reichstag, the Venice Biennale, the Guggenheim Museums in New york and Bilbao, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Her medium, whether formulated as a T-shirt, as a plaque, or as an LED sign, is writing, and the public dimension is integral to the delivery of her work.
Starting in the 1970s with the New york City posters, and up to her recent light projections on landscape and architecture, her practice has rivaled ignorance and violence with humor, kindness, and courage. Holzer received the Leone d’Oro at the Venice Biennale in 1990 and the Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum in 1996. She holds honorary degrees from Ohio university, Williams College, the Rhode Island School of Design, The New School, and Smith College. She received the Barnard Medal of Distinction in 2011. Holzer lives and works in New york.
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