Jenny Holzer American, 1950-
For Jenny Holzer (born in Gallipolis, Ohio), language is a medium. In the late 1970s she put aphorisms on billboards, signs, and posters hung throughout the streets of Manhattan. Titled Truisms (1977), the series established the basis of Holzer's art, namely, using words on media and advertising materials such as electronic signboards, T-shirts, metal plaques, and, her most recognized format, the led (light-emitting diode) with its perpetual dot-matrix flow. The tone of Holzer's writing ranges from the simplistic to the elegiac, offering continual contradictions. Her prowess as an artist resides in her ability to select, edit, and then re-present these maxims as both steeped in culture and separated from it. Following the notion of the artist as shaman made popular by Joseph Beuys, Holzer is neither critic nor champion but a serious joker who is allowed to stand apart from society to present its paradoxes. Her series have included Inflammatory Essays (1979-82), Living (1980-82), Survival (1983-85), Under a Rock (1985-87), and Laments (1987-89).
Holzer attended Pine Crest Preparatory School in Fort Lauderdale and studied at Duke University (1968-70), the University of Chicago (1970-71), and Ohio University (B.F.A., 1972). She began working with language first in graduate school at the Rhode Island School of Design (M.F.A., 1975) and more extensively while enrolled in the Whitney Museum of American Art's Independent Study Program (1977). In 1986 the Des Moines Art Center organized a traveling exhibition of her work, which propelled Holzer to international attention. She has since been offered installations around the world, including Times Square, New York (1982, 1985-86), Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas (1986), the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1987), Candlestick Park, San Francisco (1987), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1989-90), and Venice (for the 1990 Biennale). Holzer lives in New York. A.W.