Jenny Holzer
For Bilbao, 2019

About Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer (born in 1950 in Gallipolis, Ohio) prompts the viewers of her works to engage with contrary perspectives and social structures. Employing a wide range of media and constantly reinventing her approach, she lends visual form to the texts and ideas on which her works are based. Since the 1970s, these works have appeared on city streets, in everyday life, and in the museum.

Jenny Holzer
from Survival (1983–85), 1985

In 1977, Holzer launched her text series Truisms in New York City by printing succinct, seemingly self-evident sentences in black letters on white paper. Shown as anonymous street posters, they could be viewed as validation or as a challenge to rethink rote expressions.

Jenny Holzer
from Inflammatory Essays, (1979–82), 1983

Over the years, Holzer developed longer text series such as Inflammatory Essays, a set of one-hundred-word statements based on political and other manifestos. Published as a book in 1979 and often printed on brightly colored paper, the texts provoke reflection on idealism, consumption, activism, gender relations, and abuse of power.

Jenny Holzer
It Is Guns, 2019

Since then, Holzer has presented her own and other people’s texts in a variety of media, including T-shirts, caps, condom wrappers, rubber stamps, posters, LED tickers, light projections, benches, social-media posts, billboards, and trucks driving through cities. During the exhibition, Holzer’s text-based animations can be seen on advertising and information signs throughout Düsseldorf.

Jenny Holzer
from Survival, (1983–85), 2023

Holzer’s LED works draw on the conventions of news media and advertising in public spaces, exploring themes such as war, violence, and tenderness. One of the LED pieces in this show features newly collected texts from the war in Ukraine.

Jenny Holzer
Heap, 2012

Since 1986 Holzer has produced stone benches with carved inscriptions, echoing traditions of marble sculpture and functional furniture. The stoneworks in this exhibition feature her own texts and fragments from poetry on war.

Jenny Holzer
Truisms: A relaxed man…, 1987

The brutality of war, including sexual violence, is the subject of Holzer’s text series Lustmord (1993–95). Created during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s, the texts describe rape from the perspectives of the perpetrator, the victim, and an observer. At K21, excerpts from Lustmord are engraved on silver bands wrapped around human bones.

Jenny Holzer
Protect Protect metal, 2023

Since 2005, Holzer has worked on oil paintings that present declassified documents from US government agencies. The documents—which concern military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the use of torture in prison camps, and sensitive meetings—include memos, maps, interrogation transcripts, autopsy reports, and notes from and about detainees. Such documents have been made available through Freedom of Information Act requests by organizations such as the National Security Archive and the American Civil Liberties Union, but are often heavily redacted by the US government before release.

Jenny Holzer
HELP NEEDED:, 2020 (detail)

The artist has translated these documents into paintings layered in oil and metal leaf. Her approach rides the line between documentation and subjective artistic expression, drawing from the rich visual possibilities of abstract expressionism and color field painting.

Jenny Holzer
When you expect fair play…, with Lady Pink, ca. 1983 – 84

Holzer’s installation at K21 also incorporates some of her work with graffiti artist Lady Pink, giving parts of the museum the look of a street scene. The two artists have collaborated since the early 1980s. On view here are vintage spray paintings and a new mural created specifically for K21.

Jenny Holzer

Ausstellungsguide / Exhibition Guide

Bel Etage 2.001

Bel Etage 2.002

Bel Etage 2.003

K21 Untergeschoss / Souterrain