For over thirty years, Jenny Holzer has cannily transformed public systems of display into the forms that shape and hold her art. While language always has functioned as Holzer's primary medium, it cannot be dissociated from the ingenious and sly choices of bodies that hold the text. From posters, bronze plaques, and marble benches to electronic signs and light projections, the physical lives of her work question how modes of mass address form publics and communities. While she first used existing electronic signs like the Spectacolor sign in New York City's Times Square to disorient the usual reception of news and advertising, Holzer now configures L.E.D. (light-emitting diode) signs into sculptural arrangements that derange architectural space and thoughtfully complicate a viewer’s relationship to place. Starting in 1986, Holzer began making functional stone bench sculptures where her texts could be embedded. A solid counterpoint to the immaterial light of the electronics, the bench and footstool stone works also recall memorial forms that keep often violent and tragic past events alive through objects in the landscape. Her light projections onto architecture and landscapes, first realized in 1996, continue this sculptural study of place. By casting language onto a building’s facade, Holzer uses the languid scroll to translate a familiar edifice into a site that becomes newly known. Presumptions, such as the transparency of language, history, and place, become as tenuous as the fugitive light that slips off an electronic sign or above a facade when a projection ends.
For her exhibition at Kukje Gallery, Holzer will present two new large-scale electronic signs, an arrangement of marble footstools, and a selection of her pigment prints that give a continuing presence to past projections. Each electronic sign is programmed with a selection of Holzer’s writing and speaks to the emergency of the present in hushed speed and chromatic excess. The footstools, as their name implies, presume a person’s use, a body’s touch. While the material is one that bespeaks endurance and survival, it heightens the distinction between stone and skin, the eternal and the short-lived. This temporal disjunction is also present in the pigment prints that capture projections in Rome, Berlin, London, and other historic world capitals. In black and white, the melancholic tone befits a project that desperately and beautifully gives weight to time. Together, the three bodies of work heighten the viewer's sense of the fragility of moments and persons.
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. 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.