Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer /   Jenny Holzer

United States 1950

Installation, Conceptual Art

Jenny Holzer
Jenny Holzer
United States
May 17, 2016
Music, Gestalt, .

Jenny Holzer is an American conceptual and installation artist who became widely known because of her Truisms series of short aphorisms.  In her insightful art consisting of brief punchlines, Holzer uses the rhetoric and vocabulary of modern information systems and she addresses the latent politics found in these systems. Holzer belongs to the feminist branch of the artists that emerged in the 80s, just like Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman. Similarly to the other artists belonging to this movement,  Holzer explores new ways to make narratives using a visual medium.

Moving from Ohio to Manhattan

Holzer was born in Ohio, into a family of two generations of Ford auto dealers. She completed her undergraduate degree at Ohio University in Athens after attending Duke University and the University of Chicago. While enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Design, Holzer experimented with an abstract painting style influenced by the color field painters, such as Mark Rothko. In 1976, she moved to Manhattan, participating in the Whitney Museum‘s independent study program. After 1976, she started working on innovative projects which combine the use of language, installation, and public art.


In 1977, Holzer began her first truly public project, Truisms. This break-through series consists of provocative one-line aphorisms printed in an italic bold font, confronting the viewer through the unsettling element of truth in each proclamation, such as men are not monogamous by nature and money creates taste. Such concise allegations elicit public discussion, directly engaging viewers in a larger discourse on society that often broaches polemical issues.The medium of modern computer systems became an important component in Holzer’s work in 1982 when nine of her Truisms flashed at forty-second intervals on the giant spectacolor electronic signboard in Times Square. Sponsored by the Public Arts Fund program, the use of the L.E.D. (light emitting diode) machine allowed Holzer to reach a larger audience. At the same time, she started printing Truisms on posters, T-shirts, and stickers, and she also carved them into benches, which significantly contributed to the public spreading of her artworks.

Emptiness Related to Communication

In 1981, Holzer began working on her Living series. The main topic of this projects are the necessities of daily life, such as eating, breathing, sleeping, but also relationships. The artworks were printed on aluminum and bronze plaques and their short messages were accompanied by paintings of Peter Nadin, whose portraits of people attached to Holzer’s messages emphasized the emptiness of both life and communication in the digital age.The multimedia extravaganzas of Holzer’s later installations, such as the 1989 Guggenheim exhibition, are exemplified by a 535-foot running electronic signboard spiraled around the core of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, flashing garish lights on the monumental stone benches arranged in a large circle on the floor below. In 1989 also, she became the first female artist chosen to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. For the Biennale Holzer designed posters, hats, and t-shirts to be sold in the streets of Venice, while her LED signboards and marble benches occupied the solemn and austere exhibition space. She received Golden Lion that year, but also made a new series of works, called Laments.This series is inspired by the birth of her first child and it is perhaps the most personal series she has ever had done. Laments is dedicated to an unusual outlook on  motherhood, violation, pain, torture, and death.

Interest in Virtual Reality

Holzer withdrew from the art world for a few years and then returned in 1993 with a fresh approach to her work and a new emphasis on the immaterial. In 1993, she partook in a virtual reality exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum. The following year she produced her next series, Lustmord, which opened at the Barbara Gladstone Gallery in New York. Her more recent work, from 2007, called I Was In Baghdad Ochre Fade, is based on the  transcriptions of documents from the Iraq War while her Redaction Paintings series from 2008 features declassified memos and much of the text is blacked out and censored. Holzer has exhibited extensively throughout the United States and Europe and she has also published several books, such as A Little Knowledge (1979), Black Book (1980) and Hotel (1980). She is also well known for her parody Twitter account, which she uses to share parental wisdom in a similar way to her art. When asked about her opinion on her own work, Holzer replied –  If you are an artist and you are honest, you are never good enough.

Linguistic Ambiguities as a Means of Protest

The main topics of Holzer’s work are violence, oppression, sexuality, feminism, power of war and death. The artist is emphasizing and bringing to light important issues of the capitalist society by cleverly commenting on sexual identity, gender relations and a variety of political and existential issues. Her entire work is a unique social critique and protest art which aims at subverting common hierarchy while her main tools playfully visualized linguistic ambiguities. Holzer remains an active artist whose works are regularly sought when it comes to modern art marketplace.

She is represented by SCAI THE BATHHOUSE Tokyo.

Jenny Holzer lives and works in New York City.

Featured image: Holzer’s portrait – image via

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Eau de CologneSpruth Magers Los AngelesGroup
2016Art from ElsewhereBristol Museum and Art Gallery, Bristol, UKGroup
2015 Softer TargetsHauser & Wirth, SomersetSolo
2015Jenny HolzerMuseo Correr, VeniceSolo
2015NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family CollectionRubell Family Collection, Miami, FloridaGroup
2014 Jenny Holzer: TruismsThe Rooms Art Gallery, St. John's, CanadaSolo
2014Objects and FictionsSenior & Shopmaker Gallery, New YorkGroup
2014The Progress TrapDutch Electronic Art Festival, Rotterdam, NetherlandsGroup
2014No Problem: Cologne/New York 1984-1989David Zwirner, New YorkGroup
2014Take It or Leave It: Institution, Image, IdeologyHammer Museum, Los Angeles, CaliforniaGroup
2013Light StreamPearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong, ChinaSolo
2013Jenny Holzer: TruismsThe Rooms Art Gallery, St. John’s, CanadaSolo
2013The Dark WorldSummerhall, EdinburghGroup
2013Zeicchen. Sprache. Bilder – Schrift in der Kunst Seit den 1960s JahrenStadtische Galerie KarlsruheGroup
2013Gli Anni Settana. Arte a RomaPalazzo delle Esposizinoi, Rome, ItalyGroup
2012The Future PleaseL&M, Los Angeles, CaliforniaSolo
2012EndgameSkarstedt Gallery, New YorkSolo
2012Sophisticated DevicesSpruth Magers, LondonSolo
2012Elles: Women Artists from the Centre PompidouSeattle Art Museum, Seattle, WashingtonGroup
2012Art and press Kunst. Wahreit. WirklighkeitZKM, Karlsruhe, GermanyGroup
2012Bye Bye American PieMALBA, Buenos Aires, ArgentinaGroup
2011Jenny HolzerKukje Gallery, Seoul, KoreaSolo
2011Jenny HolzerArt Stations Foundation, PoznanSolo
2011Jenny HolzerRetro, Skarstedt Gallery, New YorkSolo
2011In the End was the WordUrsula Blickle Stiftung, Kraichtal Group
2011Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970 to 1990Victoria and Albert Museum, London, United Kingdom Group
2011The Deconstructive ImpulseThe Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, Durham, North CarolinaGroup
2010Top SecretGalerie Yvon Lambert, Paris, FranceSolo
2010Jenny HolzerDHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art, Montreal, CanadaSolo
2010Jenny HolzerTalbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, ScotlandSolo
2010Protect ProtectBaltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, United KingdomSolo
2010The Right to ProtestMuseum on the Seam, Jerusalem, IsraelGroup
2010Street and Studio: From Basquiat to SeripopKunsthalle Wien, Vienna, AustriaGroup
2010Sexuality and TranscendencePinchuk Art Center, Kiev, UkraineGroup
2009Jenny HolzerFondation Beyeler, BaselSolo
2009Protect ProtectWhitney Museum of American Art, New YorkSolo
2009Protect ProtectMuseum of Contemporary Art, accompanied by light projections in Chicago, Chicago, IllinoisSolo
2009Beg Borrow and StealThe Rubell Family Collection Museum, Miami, Florida Group
2009We are the World: Figures and PortraitsFisher Landau Center for Art, Long Island City Group
2008Like TruthDiehl + Gallery One, Moscow, RussiaSolo
2008DetainedMonika Sprüth Philomene Magers, London, United KingdomSolo
2008ProjectionsThe Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, MassachusettsSolo
2008Blasted Allegories – Werke aus der Sammlung RingierLucerne Kunstmuseum, Luzern, GermanyGroup
2008Modern and Contemporary PrintsOsborne Samuel, London, United KingdomGroup
2007Highly SensitiveMonika Spruth Philomene Magers, Cologne, GermanySolo
2007SecretMonika Spruth Philomene Magers, Cologne, GermanySolo
2007Nothing FollowsGalerie Yvon Lambert, Paris, FranceSolo
2007Im WortKunsthalle GoppingenGroup
2007Multiplex: Directions in Art, 1970 to NowThe Museum of Modern Art, New YorkGroup
2006XX. MakVienna, accompanied by light projections in Vienna, AustriaSolo
2006Jenny HolzerCheim & Read, New YorkSolo
2006Night FeedGalerie Yvon Lambert, New YorkSolo
2005Jenny HolzerKukje Gallery, Seoul, KoreaSolo
2005Hot Pink (with Lady Pink)Monika Spruth Philomene Magers, Munich, GermanySolo
2005Superstars: From Warhol to MadonnaKunstforum & Kunsthalle, Vienna, AustriaGroup
2004Jenny Holzer (with poetry by Henri Cole)Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris, FranceSolo
2004Truth Before PowerKunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz, accompanied by light projections in Vorarlberg, AustriaSolo
2004East Village USANew Museum of Contemporary Art, New YorkGroup
2003Jenny HolzerMonchehaus Museum, GoslarSolo
2003Shadow and LightSpruth Magers, Salzburg, AustriaGroup
2002Protect Me From What I WantNew YorkSolo
2001Jenny HolzerCheim & Read, New YorkSolo
2001Jenny HolzerFestival d’Automne a ParisSolo
2001Jenny HolzerNeue Nationalgalerie, BerlinSolo
2000Jenny HolzerGaleria Luisa Strina, Sao Paulo, BrazilSolo
2000Jenny HolzerFundacion Proa, Buenos AiresSolo
2000Around 1984: A Look at Art in the EightiesMoMA P.S. 1, Long Island City, New YorkGroup
2000CouplesCheim & Read, New YorkGroup
1999Jenny Holzer: Proteja–Me do Que Eu Quero Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Rio de JaneiroSolo
1999Jenny Holzer: The Living SeriesGalerie Rudiger Schottle, Munich, GermanySolo
1999The American Century: Art and Culture 1900-2000 Part II, 1950-2000The Whitney Museum of American Art, New YorkGroup
1999Memory Opens Its Doors: Contemporary Art at the LenbachhausStadtische Galerie im Lenbacchaus, MunichGroup
1997Jenny HolzerContemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TexasSolo
1997Jenny HolzerKunstmuseum des Kantons Thurgau, Kartause Ittingen, Warth, SwitzerlandSolo
1997On the Edge: Contemporary Art from the Werner and Elaine Dannheisser CollectionThe Museum of Modern Art, New YorkGroup
1997One Line DrawingUbu Gallery, New YorkGroup
1995LustmordMonika Spruth Galerie, Cologne, GermanynSolo
1995Jahreswechsel 1995-96 Leccesse-Spruth, GermanyGroup
1995Feminin-Masculin: Le Sexe de l’Art?Centre Pompidou, Paris, FranceGroup
1993Eau de Cologne 83-93Galerie Monika Spruth, Cologne, Germany Group
1993Virtual Reality: An Emerging MediumGuggenheim Museum Soho, New YorkGroup
1990XLIV Biennale di Venezia, Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte ModernaUnited States Pavilion, Venice, ItalySolo
1990Jenny HolzerSolomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, New YorknSolo
1990High and Low: Modern Art & Popular CultureThe Museum of Modern Art, New YorkGroup
1990Art & Pub: Art et Publicite 1890-1990Centre Pompidou, Paris, FranceGroup