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b. 1950, United States

Jenny Holzer Biography

American artist Jenny Holzer's text-based works draw upon some of the most pressing social issues of our time: power, gender, inequality, sex, and war.

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Artworks

Holzer works with both her own and existing texts from diverse sources, which are displayed in media ranging from posters and canvas to stone benches, LED signs, buildings, and landscapes.

Text-based Works

Holzer's use of text in her iconic 'Truisms' series (1977–1979) was partly motivated by the reading list at the Whitney Museum of American Art's Independent Study Program, in which she participated in 1976. Consisting of maxims, 'Truisms' offers different voices on life, from light-hearted and whimsical to provocative and contradictory, such as 'CHILDREN ARE THE HOPE OF THE FUTURE' and 'CHILDREN ARE THE CRUELEST OF ALL'.

Along with 'Inflammatory Essays' (1979–1982), Holzer's second text-based series about concerns such as power relations, social control, and sexuality, Truisms initially appeared as anonymous posters put up throughout the streets of New York.

Rise to Recognition

Holzer first began to gain critical attention in Europe in the early 1980s, when American artist Dan Graham—who had seen her 'Truisms' posters in New York—introduced her to German curator Kasper König. Following her participation in documenta 7 in 1982, Holzer held solo exhibitions at institutions and galleries such as Kunsthalle Basel (1984) and Monika Sprüth Galerie in Cologne (1986).

Some of the artist's most well-known projects debuted in Europe, notably the projection of the words 'I SMELL YOU ON MY SKIN' on the bank of the Arno—a historically and culturally significant site in Florence—in 1996.

Between 1989 and 1990, Holzer held a series of significant solo exhibitions in the United States and abroad. In 1989, she presented Laments (1989) at Dia Chelsea. It consisted of 13 sarcophagi inscribed with words by different individuals who were approaching death, and electronic signs.

In the following year, she became the first female artist to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale and won the Golden Lion for best pavilion. Among the works she showed was Mother and Child (1990): a series of 12 LED signs reflecting on her personal experiences as a mother.

New Materials

Some of the artist's most well-known projects debuted in Europe, notably the projection of the words 'I SMELL YOU ON MY SKIN' on the bank of the Arno—a historically and culturally significant site in Florence—in 1996.

In the 1980s, Holzer also expanded her writings and choice of media. The 'Living' series (1980–1982), which appears on aluminium or bronze plaques, addresses everyday life, from the banal activities of eating and sleeping to relationships. In 1982 'Truisms' featured on the Spectacolor sign in New York's Times Square, prompting the artist to further experiment with LED signs and light projections. Other new materials in Holzer's practice included stone, inspired by the change of scenery when she left New York for the countryside in 1985.

Redaction Paintings

Since 2001, Holzer has drawn text from poetry, literature, and government papers to examine social and political tensions in the contemporary world. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are her primary concern in her painting series that reproduces declassified military documents by screen-printing or hand. In these paintings, the redactions are mostly in black, although Holzer sometimes adds colour to create semi-abstractions that recall works by artists such as Mark Rothko and Kazimir Malevich.

At her solo exhibition Softer (2017) at Blenheim Palace, the artist juxtaposed her 'Redaction Paintings' and LED signs presenting testimonies by war veterans of the United Kingdom with the palace's historical portraits and paintings to confront the underside of wars glorified in the past and present.

Climate Change

In 2021, Holzer voiced her concerns about climate change in HURT EARTH (2021), a projection of quotes about the emergency onto the brick chimney at Tate Modern in London. The quotations, collected by the artist, are from environmental activists, leaders, and allies from around the world, including Greta Thunberg and Hilda Flvia Nakabuye. The work was later shown in Edinburgh and Glasgow, the latter of which hosted COP26.

Website

Jenny Holzer's website can be found here.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2022

Jenny Holzer
featured artworks

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Purple Red Curve by Jenny Holzer contemporary artwork mixed media
Jenny Holzer Purple Red Curve, 2005 Text: Arno (1996); Blue (1998). Horizontal double-sided curved LED sign: red & blue diodes on front; red diodes on back.
13.3 x 146.6 x 13.7 cm
Sprüth Magers Request Price & Availability
Systems Taxonomy by Jenny Holzer contemporary artwork painting
Jenny Holzer Systems Taxonomy, 2019 Text: U.S. government document. Moon gold, palladium leaf, red gold leaf and oil on linen.
80 x 92.1 x 4.8 cm
Sprüth Magers Request Price & Availability
dignity by Jenny Holzer contemporary artwork painting
Jenny Holzer dignity, 2023 Graphite, oil paint, and gold leaf on linen
147.3 x 111.8 x 3.8 cm
Hauser & Wirth Request Price & Availability
If You Aren't Political Your Personal Life Should be Exemplary by Jenny Holzer contemporary artwork sculpture
Jenny Holzer If You Aren't Political Your Personal Life Should be Exemplary, 1998 Bronze plaque
12.7 x 25.4 cm
Sold
DE SARTHE
Selections from Survival: Finding Extreme Pleasure... by Jenny Holzer contemporary artwork sculpture
Jenny Holzer Selections from Survival: Finding Extreme Pleasure..., 1983-85 Danby Imperial white marble
43.2 x 58.4 x 40 cm
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DE SARTHE
our friends by Jenny Holzer contemporary artwork painting
Jenny Holzer "our friends", 2022 Moon gold and red gold leaf and oil on linen
147.3 x 111.8 x 3.8 cm
Hauser & Wirth Request Price & Availability
Assets and Activities 13 by Jenny Holzer contemporary artwork painting
Jenny Holzer Assets and Activities 13, 2013 Oil on linen
203.5 x 157.5 x 4 cm
Gary Tatintsian Gallery Request Price & Availability
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Jenny Holzer
recent exhibitions

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Represented by these
Ocula Member Galleries

Hauser & Wirth contemporary art gallery in Hong Kong
Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris +7
Kukje Gallery contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea
Kukje Gallery Seoul, Busan
Sprüth Magers contemporary art gallery in Berlin, Germany
Sprüth Magers London, Berlin, Los Angeles, New York
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Jenny Holzer in
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