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8 / Writing

For the Guggenheim
For the Guggenheim
Artist / Origin Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950)
Region: North America
Date September 26–December 31, 2008
Material (Photograph of) light projection
Location Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY
Credit © 2009 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo courtesy of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

expert perspective

Sylvia WolfDirector of the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington, Seattle

Additional Resources

Fineberg, Jonathan. Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being, 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000.

Foster, Hal. “Subversive Signs.” In Theories of Contemporary Art, edited by Richard Hertz, 179–188. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1985.

“Past Exhibitions – Jenny Holzer’s For the Guggenheim.” The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Web site. http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/exhibitions/past/exhibit/2522.

Phillips, Lisa. The American Century: 1950–2000, exhibition catalogue. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art in association with W.W. Norton, 1999.

Smith, Elizabeth A.T., and Jenny Holzer. Jenny Holzer. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2008.

Varnedoe, Kirk, and Adam Gopnik. High & Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture, exhibition catalogue. New York: Museum of Modern Art in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1990.

Waldman, Diane. Jenny Holzer. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1997.

For the Guggenheim

» Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950)

Active since the late 1970s, American artist Jenny Holzer works primarily in words.

With the intent of bringing her art to people outside of museums, in early projects such as Truisms and Inflammatory Essays, Holzer delivered short phrases and longer expositions through posters, T-shirts, and light displays in Times Square, Las Vegas, and various baseball stadiums. Although her works, especially those using lighted signs and scrolling LED displays, resembled common advertising and official signage, their content subverted expectations.

In 1996, Holzer began projecting moving text onto the sides of buildings and monuments around the world, including architect I.M. Pei’s Pyramid at the Louvre and the Spanish Steps in Rome. In 2008 the Guggenheim in New York commissioned the work seen here to celebrate the restoration of its landmark, Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building. The projection onto the famous spiral face of the museum was on view every Friday evening from September through December of that year. This regular outdoor event helped create an engaging, public activity for the neighborhood and the city.

Early on in her career, Holzer wrote her own text, much of it based on feminist politics. Beginning in 2001, however, the artist began looking to the writings of others to supply the content for her works. The projected words in For the Guggenheim come from several poems by the Nobel Prize-winning Polish writer Wislawa Szymborska. Holzer believes that artistry enters such works not only in the selection of the text, but also in the way that text is presented. Precise electronic programming is used to determine color, movement, pauses, omissions, and other elements.

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