When it comes to the feminist art practices from the late 1970s, one the most prolific figures to mention is Jenny Holzer, well known for her text-based public installations and a pioneering use of LED technologies back in the 1990s. The artist has produced a number of provoking works based on the content built from different references.
In order to reexamine as the immense domains of her four-decades-long practice from a contemporary perspective, Tate Modern is hosting an exhibition titled ARTIST ROOMS: Jenny Holzer. For this particular occasion, some of the rarely seen installations from the artist’s archives are shown in the UK for the first time.
Naturally, the retrospective of this kind is thought out to underline the significance of Jenny Holzer’s practice by exposing some of her crucial works.
Truisms, Living, Survival and Laments are some of the early installations which consist of three large-scale paintings created in collaboration with the New York graffiti artist Lady Pink. Along with them is shown a large selection of the artist’s drawings titled Diagrams from 1976.
When it comes to her formative works, it is necessary to mention the Truisms series made between 1977 and 1979, constructed out of 300 aphorisms. These works were meant to be presented in public space, so they first appeared on posters hanging around lower Manhattan and printed on a range of objects such as disposable cups, and condoms. The drawings are accompanied by the Truisms LED piece from the 1980s.
Redaction Paintings is a project which Jenny Holzer started in 2006 and it features declassified government documents relating to the American and British interventions in the Middle East. These large-scale paintings are displayed alongside a sculptural installation of a surplus sleeping bag embroidered with the first-person testimony of a British war veteran.
The LED sculpture from 2015 titled FLOOR is also present; although it was initially planned to be positioned on the ground, for this purpose Holzer decided to mount the work on the ceiling, in order for audiences to experience the work from a different perspective.
THEY LEFT ME is the latest work produced in 2018 and is made by juxtaposing statements of Syrian refugees, provided by Save the Children and Human Rights Watch, with the poetry by Anna Świrszczyńska, a celebrated Polish author who was a volunteer nurse and member of the Resistance in World War II.
In order to understand better the decision to show the works of Jenny Holzer, it is important to mention that The ARTIST ROOMS gallery was opened in 2016 with a Louise Bourgeois display, followed by one dedicated to Bruce Nauman in 2017. The collection is owned by both Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland.
The exhibition ARTIST ROOMS: Jenny Holzer at Tate Modern is the latest in the series of the free annual displays, and it will be on view until summer 2019.
Featured images: Jenny Holzer – Truisms, 1984. Metal, light emitting diode units and plastic, 169 x 1539 x 162 mm © Jenny Holzer, Tate; Installation view of ARTIST ROOMS: Jenny Holzer at Tate Modern (23 July 2018 – July 2019) © Tate (Andrew Dunkley). All images courtesy Tate Modern.