On 11 March 2009, Jenny Holzer’s traveling exhibition ‘PROTECT PROTECT’ opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. ‘PROTECT PROTECT’, previously at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, includes a number of Holzer’s characteristic LED sign works, but also features painting and installation from the last fifteen years. The majority of the works in the exhibition draws from declassified U.S. government documents and unveils the human presence in the policy making of war, violence and torture. In Red Yellow Looming (2004), LED bars present the viewer with the language of previous U.S. presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, while Holzer’s Redaction Paintings series (2005-09) expose the experiences of the perpetrators and victims of the policies set out under these under presidencies.
The Whitney Museum of American Art
Jenny Holzer PROTECT PROTECT
945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street
March 12 – May 31, 2009
Exhibition Page [Whitney Museum of American Art]
New York Times Review [New York Times]
Art in America Review [Art in America]
Art in America Review of Opening [Art in America]
New York Press interview with Jenny Holzer [New York Press]
Biography, Interviews and Multimedia on Jenny Holzer [PBS art:21]
Sign-Meister Genius Holzer Flashes Ideas on Love, War: Review [Bloomberg]
Coming from a feminist post Post-Minimalist background, language plays a vital role in Holzer’s oeuvre. Two of her highly esteemed texts are Truisms (1977-79) and Inflammatory Essays (1979-82). Holzer presents her writings through unconventional media that easily reach the public, such as t-shirts and billboards. One of her most iconic phrases “Protect Me From What I want” has been printed on condoms and posters, and put on buildings as projections of xenon light and LED signs.
Throughout her work Holzer manages to subject her pieces to the tensions between contradictory terms. She deals with the public and the private, fact and fiction, the universal and the particular, and the body and body politics. In ‘PROTECT PROTECT’, for example, Lustmord Table (1994) displays human bones with silver bands impressed with words by rape victims, perpetrators and witnesses. Her work unites aesthetics with bold political statements.
Jenny Holzer was born in Gallipolis, Ohio in 1950 and received her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1977. In that same year, she took part in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program. Currently, Holzer works from her home in Hoosick Falls, New York.
By Gabriëlle for Art Observed