Jenny Holzer U.S.A., b. 1950
"The epiphany for me was that I wasn't a writer, and I had to do something with these texts. I put them in the streets as posters" - Jenny Holzer
Jenny Holzer is an American conceptual and installation artist whose work deploys text in public spaces across an array of media, including electronic signs, carved stone, paintings, billboards, and printed materials. Holzer's oeuvre provokes public debate and illuminates social and political justice. Celebrated for her inimitable use of language and projects in the public sphere, Holzer creates a powerful tension between the realms of feeling and knowledge, with a practice that encompasses both individual and collective experiences of power and violence, vulnerability and tenderness.
Holzer was born on July 29, 1950 in Gallipolis, Ohio. Originally aspiring to become an abstract painter, her studies included general art courses at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina (1968-1970), and then painting, printmaking and drawing at the University of Chicago before completing her BFA at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio (1972). In 1974, Holzer took summer courses at the Rhode Island School of Design, and entered its MFA program in 1975. She moved to Manhattan in 1976, joined the Whitney Musuem's independent study program and began her first work with language, installation and public art. She also was an active member of the artists group Colab.
Holzer is known as a neo-conceptual artist. Most of her work is presented in public spaces and includes words and ideas, in the form of word art (also known as text art). The public dimension is integral to Holzer's work. Her large-scale installations have included advertising billboards, projections on buildings and other architectural structures, and illuminated electronic displays. LED signs have become her most visible medium, although her diverse practice incorporates a wide array of media including street posters, painted signs, stone benches, paintings, photographs, sound, video, projections, the Internet, T-shirts, and a race car for BMW. Text-based light projections have been central to Holzer's practice since 1996. From 2010, her LED signs started becoming more sculptural.
Holzer's only uses capital letters in her work and frequently words or phrases are italicized. She has stated before that this is because she wants to "show some sense of urgency and to speak a bit loudly."
The subject of Holzer's work often relates to feminism and sexism. Her work discusses heavy subjects such as sexual assault against women. She has said that she gravitates towards subjects such as this due to family dysfunction she has experienced and because she claims "we don't need work on joy."