A Conceptual and installation artist who became known in New York City in 1977 for inexpensively printed and anonymously posted sheets of text known as Truisms, Jenny Holzer utilizes words as the primary medium and content of her art. Her signature style is marked by the extreme brevity and concision of statements she appropriates from diverse sources or makes up, as well as by the immediacy of her bold, “no-nonsense” fonts.
Although Holzer’s first works employed the commercial technique of photolithography and appeared on telephone booths and walls around the city, she has since reissued the same or similar pithy, ironic, and acerbic declarations, observations, and aphorisms in a variety of formats and has placed them in countless venues. Co-opting strategies commonly used by businesses to advertise or sell merchandise, Holzer issues printed products such as pencils, decals, coffee mugs, T-shirts, golf balls, and baseball caps, thus making her art more widely accessible. While her first truisms read like a litany of claims, listed alphabetically in groups of forty to sixty on sheets of paper, her printing of single messages on such multiples enables the “consumer” to select specific points of view to own, display, or wear. This interactive aspect of Holzer’s work was also evident in the early posted truisms on which passersby often wrote responses.
Holzer’s concern with reaching a large and broad audience and with capturing the viewer’s attention is also evident in her projects using LED (light emitting diode) lights in public spaces such as Times Square. Since the 1990s, she has expanded her technological repertoire to include Xenon projections that reach buildings from a distance, multimedia installations, three-dimensional LED displays, web projects, and videos for MTV. Recurring themes of violence, war, sex, power, and money reveal Holzer’s deep, enduring concern with social issues.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Jennifer Roberts, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 243.