MAKE A STATEMENT
Artist Jenny Holzer unveils her experiential and visceral destination piece atthe Modern
Artist Jenny Holzer was sending her series of electronic missives into the ether years before texting was a reality. Best known for her series of Truisms (1977-79) — including such tropes as “Protect Me From What I Want,” “Money Creates Taste” and “Lack of Charisma Can Be Fatal” — her striking statements have also been screened on posters, carved into sculptures and emblazoned across a giant LED billboard at Cowboys Stadium.
On Tuesday, December 4, the artist unveils her latest site-specific work, Kind of Blue, at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and discusses both the installation and her brilliant career.
Running in a river of indigo text in the museum’s clerestory gallery, Kind of Blue features seven channels of text that serve as a Holzer “retrospective,” a kind of “greatest hits” on display.
Kind of Blue has an impact beyond the walls at the Modern: Through reflection on the pond just outside, the blue language doubles on the surface of the water, adding a playful finish to the piece.
Modern curator Michael Auping, who commissioned Holzer to create the work, has a long and storied history with the artist stretching back to late 1970s Soho. He discovered her earliest pieces plastered on the New York streets alongside advertisements for downtown hotspots like the Mudd Club.
“You’d walk by and there would be posters with one of the truisms like ‘Raise Boys and Girls the Same Way,’ but it wasn’t signed,” Auping says. “You had no idea who put it there, whether it was a prank or an artist, but it was well-printed in bold Helvetica type with some sense of authority.”
When Auping was approached to take on the role of commissioner for the American Pavilion at the 1990 Venice Biennale, Holzer’s work — which ultimately took home the Golden Lion — seemed a perfect fit for the space.
“When I was approached to do the American Pavilion, I though the best way to do this was have Jenny do the whole building,” he says. “She was the first woman to represent the U.S. at the Biennale, and we were in Venice together for three months and go to know each other quite well. When I have to pitch to a board I need someone I have complete faith in, and Jenny is that person.”
Working within the parameters of the Modern, Holzer found Kind of Blue has an impact beyond the walls: Through reflection on the pond just outside, the blue language doubles on the surface of the water, adding a playful finish to the piece. Blue’s LED lights can be set to frenetic “party program” or move at a more contemplative speed.
Kind of Blue will remain in the Modern for the next two to three years, where Auping anticipates it will become a “destination piece.”
“From one standpoint, viewers think of Jenny as taking language and making it art,” he explains. “The other side of Jenny is language as image, because as an image you forget what’s being said.
“Until you’ve seen a Jenny Holzer installation you don’t know what I’m talking about, but when you see it, you almost stop reading it. It’s so experiential and visceral.”
Jenny Holzer speaks Tuesday, December 4, at 7 pm in the Modern’s auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.