The Weight of Words
Posted by Erin on February 14, 2013 - 3:17pm

Jenny Holzer, Kind of Blue, 2012. 9 LED signs with blue diodes, .9 x 120 x 576 inches. Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. © 2012 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo: Paul Kamuf.

The work of artist Jenny Holzer is at once polemic, inclusive, intense, confrontational, heartening, cold, and frank. With over ten series in her oeuvre, Holzer has used language as her medium for the entirety of her mature career (her early student work consisted of fruitless attempts at color field painting). What began as a young, socially conscious, and well-educated artist clandestinely wheat-pasting posters of aphorisms on the dark streets of New York City quickly morphed into an artist with an intense writing practice. And though the artist denies it, her work is much akin to poetry.

The crevices and gutters of our collective American unconscious are fair game for Holzer. Her Inflammatory Essays (included in our newest acquisition, Kind of Blue, 2012, and written on the heels of the seminal Truisms) dredge to the surface of our minds the taboo, the dark, and the unmentionable, shining a light on them—often to our discomfort. As statements such as “GUNS MAKE WRONG RIGHT FAST” and “FEAR IS THE MOST ELEGANT WEAPON” scroll along the LED panels installed on the gallery floor, we get to sit with our discomfort, our revulsion, our complicity. We may become unnerved as we realize the direct connection between these words, written over twenty years ago, and contemporary societal debates. And we read on.