30. Jenny Holzer

JENNY HOLZER, 6, TEXT: U.S. GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT, Oil on linen, 2012. The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, Gift of Barbara ’68 and Theodore ’68 Alfond, 2015.1.10.


Jenny Holzer began her career as a painter, graduating from Ohio University in 1972 and later entering the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program in New York in 1976. Though she had experimented with other non-traditional forms of art during her studies at the Whitney, it is within the intersection of language and culture that she found her calling. Not tethered to any singular designation, Holzer melds both Conceptualism and Minimalism to produce art that is thought provoking, concisely structured, and aesthetically striking.

Throughout her career, Holzer’s body of work has focused on the intricacies of language. Though she at one point wrote the text she used herself, she now borrows and collaborates with different artists, writers, or at times even entities, to create works of art. For example, in her Text: US Government Document, she repurposes language from bureaucratic documents. For example, in the painting 6, Text: US Government Document shown here the emphasis is placed on the absence of language by showcasing a page from a document pertaining to the Iraq War. By returning to the medium of painting, Holzer experiments with form, creating large canvases that appear abstract until closer inspection reveals the few words that remain. The director of the National Security Archive, Thomas Blanton, described Holzer’s work as “[doing] for the digital age what a nail and broadsheet used to do, for example, when Martin Luther pounded his theses onto the church door.”