Exhibition view: Jenny Holzer: Thing Indescribable at Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain (22 March–9 September 2019). © 2019 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo: José Miguel Llano.
Jenny Holzer was 26 when she arrived in New York. The freshman art student at the Whitney Museum had grown up in Gallipolis, Ohio, a sleepy town in America's Midwest, and had spent her early twenties jumping from place to place in search of her artistic identity. She started out as an abstract expressionist. Then she tried to capture the human form at its most explicit. But she was frustrated; the themes that animated her – sexual and physical violence against women, systemic abuses of power, meditations of love, lust and longing – could not be properly evoked by her canvas.