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Art Through Time: A Global View

Writing Compare: In the Public Sphere, What Makes Writing Art?

For the Guggenheim

For the Guggenheim
Artist / Origin: Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950)
Region: North America
Date: September 26–December 31, 2008
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: (Photograph of) light projection
Medium: Video, Installation, and Performance
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

Graffiti Tag

Graffiti Tag
Artist / Origin: Faro (Egyptian, active early 21st century)
Region: North America
Date: ca. 2006–2009
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Spray paint
Medium: Painting
Location: New York, NY
Credit: Photo Courtesy of Aaron Wexler

In the public sphere, what makes writing art?

People have been putting words on walls for centuries. Out in the public arena, words, whether printed on posters or painted directly on the surfaces of buildings, are a vehicle for transmitting messages, often social or political in nature, to a particular group or the community at large. In both Jenny Holzer’s For the Guggenheim and Faro’s name tag, we can literally see the writing on the wall. But can we see the art?

Questions to Consider

  • Each of these works identifies its artist somehow. How does it do that? What is the significance of the artist’s identity in each case?
  • Jenny Holzer’s work was projected onto the Guggenheim Museum on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Faro’s was painted on a non-descript wall in Chelsea, another neighborhood in New York City. What is the relevance of location in each of these cases? How does it impact the the way you understand each work?
  • What makes one of these works legal and the other illegal? Do you think that both should be categorized as art?

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Art Through Time: A Global View


Produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG. 2009.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-888-2