About this artwork
Since the 1970s, Jenny Holzer has used language as her medium of choice to communicate penetrating ideas about life and death, sex, power, and war. Like contemporaries including Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, and Cindy Sherman, she appropriates mass media and advertising strategies in her work. Holzer rose to prominence with her Truisms series (1977–79), which consisted of nearly three hundred aphorisms and slogans that play on commonly held truths and clichés such as “A lot of professionals are crackpots” and “A man can’t know what it is like to be a mother.” Displayed as anonymous broadsides on buildings, fences, and walls throughout Manhattan, these statements were meant to provoke public debate. In her more recent work, Holzer continues to use language and current modes of communication to assail established ideas about art’s place, audience, and meaning in modern society. Her texts have appeared on benches, billboards, Internet sites, posters, sarcophagi, in the form of monumental Xenon projections, and, most commonly, as LED (light-emitting diode) signs.
Blue Tilt features texts from five of Holzer’s iconic series: Truisms; Inflammatory Essays (1979–82), one hundred words in twenty lines inspired by the literature of Emma Goldman, Rosa Luxembourg, Lenin, Mao, and others, also printed on posters; Living (1980–82), matter-of-fact writings on “everyday life with a twist” that were originally shown on cast-bronze plaques and hand-lettered metal signs; the urgent Survival (1983–85), which appeared on the Spectacolor board in New York’s Times Square and was the first series the artist conceived for electronic signs; and the desperate Under A Rock (1986), which was engraved on stone benches shortly after Holzer’s move to the countryside of upstate New York. Although all of these texts are the artist’s invention, they do not necessarily reflect her personal views. Indeed, they employ a variety of contradictory voices, assuming a tone of anonymous authority in order to express a wide spectrum of biases and beliefs in which truth is relative. Blue Tilt captures each of these signature moments in the medium most readily associated with Holzer—the LED.
The structure of Blue Tilt’s installation is architectural and dramatic, with imposing sixteen-foot, double-sided signs towering over viewers and bathing the entire space in the light of a relentless stream of words. “One reason I’ve stayed with LEDs so long,” remarked Holzer, “is that part of the experience is that the light and words hit the body. This might give you vertigo; it might represent that there’s always too much information and ‘how do I process it?’ It could make you unsure of the floor; I try to use reflections to that end.” Under her control, the gallery becomes a stage that at once creates and serves an audience that can no longer make itself comfortable.
Currently Off View
- Contemporary Art
- Jenny Holzer
- Blue Tilt
- United States
- Six double-sided vertical light-emitting diode signs with Taitron blue diodes, stainless steel housings and bezels
- 381 × 13.7 × 13.7 cm (150 × 5 3/8 × 5 3/8 in.), each unit; 381 × 228.6 × 127 cm (150 × 90 × 50 in.), installed
- Restricted anonymous gift; through prior bequest of Marguerita S. Ritman; through prior gift of Leo S. Guthman; Watson F. Blair Prize Fund
- © 2020 Jenny Holzer, member Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York