Truisms (Jenny Holzer)

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Jenny Holzer’s Truisms (1977-79) are some of her most well-known works. The nearly three hundred aphorisms and slogans utilize a series of modern clichés or commonly held truths.[1]

Conception and execution[edit]

Holzer started investigating the use of words and language as an art medium in itself while she was studying literature and philosophy in New York City in 1977. She began simplifying big ideas from her readings into concise statements and phrases and putting up signs around Manhattan. As opposed to her contemporaries, for example Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, or Richard Prince, Holzer would consider the sole text the image in itself, whereas they would combine their text with imagery.[2] She appreciated the immediacy and the reaching of wide-scale audiences that signage provided.[3] Holzer would place the finished products in telephone booths or on the walls of buildings, eventually shifting to bigger projects, like her installations in Times Square.[4] She claimed in an interview with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art that she wrote all of her own clichés, thinking that if people heard something that was a little different than usual that they would remember it more clearly.[5] She liked to keep her statements as short and concise as possible, as to be able to reach the largest crowd as possible.[6] “You only have a few seconds to catch people, so you can’t do long, reasoned arguments, [but] I hope they’re not simplistic or idiotic”, Holzer said on the topic. Her goal was for people to see them, read them, laugh at them, and be provoked by them.[7]

Electronic Displays[edit]

Ned Rifkin, the chief curator for exhibitions at the Hirshhorn, calls Holzer’s work “very American” in the sense of her being at ease with technology and impatient with tradition.[8] “I like the aggressiveness and the kind of futuristic beauty of the electronics,” Holzer said.[9] Because of this dependence on words and electronics, her series was referred to as a “specialist art” in 1988.[10]

Reception[edit]

When Holzer displayed her Truisms, “she brought her disquieting messages to a new height of subversive social engagement.”[11] Using mass media to exhibit her work, placing her grave texts where everyday advertising is expected, creates a new, large audience for her work: an audience of the general public who would not, under average circumstances, give modern and contemporary art a second thought.[12] She hoped that with this prominent and public location, her Truisms would make people more aware of, what she called, the “usual baloney they are fed” in daily life.[13]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Tate Modern, "Jenny Holzer," gallery label.
  2. ^ Glueck, “And Now, A Few Words From Jenny Holzer.”
  3. ^ Smith, Art In Review, "Jenny Holzer -- Protect Me From What I Want".
  4. ^ Phaidon Press, The Art Book.
  5. ^ Holzer, “Jenny Holzer’s Public Clichés.”
  6. ^ Glueck, "And Now, A Few Words From Jenny Holzer"
  7. ^ Museum of Modern Art. Jenny Holzer’s Truisms.
  8. ^ Glueck, “And Now, A Few Words From Jenny Holzer.”
  9. ^ Glueck, “And Now, A Few Words From Jenny Holzer.”
  10. ^ Brenson, “Art View; Jenny Holzer: The Message is the Message.”
  11. ^ Guggenheim, “Untitled (Selections from Truisms, Inflammatory Essays, The Living Series, The Survival Series, Under a Rock, Laments, and Child Text).”
  12. ^ Guggenheim, “Untitled (Selections from Truisms, Inflammatory Essays, The Living Series, The Survival Series, Under a Rock, Laments, and Child Text).”
  13. ^ Tate Modern, "Jenny Holzer," gallery label.

References[edit]

  • Tate Modern, Truisms, gallery label, October 2000.
  • Glueck, Grace (December 3, 1989). "And Now, a Few Words From Jenny Holzer". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  • Beard, Lee; Butler, Adam; Van Cleave, Claire; Fortenberry, Diane; Stirling, Susan (2012). The Art book. London: Phaidon Press. ISBN 0714864676.
  • Smith, Roberta. “ART IN REVIEW; Jenny Holzer -- Protect Me From What I Want.” New York Times (September 6, 2002).
  • Holzer, Jenny. “Jenny Holzer’s Public Clichés.” San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
  • Brenson, Michael (August 7, 1988). "ART VIEW; Jenny Holzer: The Message Is the Message". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  • Guggenheim Museum. “Untitled (Selections from Truisms, Inflammatory Essays, The Living Series, The Survival Series, Under a Rock, Laments, and Child Text).” 1989.
  • Museum of Modern Art. Jenny Holzer’s Truisms. 1978-87.