“TRUE FREEDOM IS FRIGHTFUL”, “WAR IS A PURIFICATION RITE”, “WORDS TEND TO BE INADEQUATE” – these and nearly three hundred other epigrams were created by Jenny Holzer between 1977 and 1979. They are now called “Truisms” and impress just as strong as forty years ago when they appeared around Manhattan on basic posters printed and anonymously wheat-pasted by Jenny Holzer herself. These, sometimes disorientating and controversial aphorisms open a third edition of the “Artist Rooms” in Tate Modern.
After having a pleasure to previously visit “Artist Rooms” dedicated to Louise Bourgeois and Bruce Nauman I finally made it to the third edition dedicated to the American neo-conceptual artist Jenny Holzer. She was born in 1950, Ohio and has been living and working in New York since her early twenties. Jenny Holzer is one of the most renowned and respected contemporary artists to use words as her main tool.
Apart from “Truisms”, the five rooms dedicated to the artist in Tate Modern, show her later works. Including “Living Series”, 1981 featuring quotes cast in aluminium and bronze plaques reminiscent of the memorial boards seen on the historical buildings; large scale paintings from collaborations with graffiti artist Lady Pink and Granet in 1983 and 1984; some of the well known light emitting diode columns “Blue Purple Tilt”, 2007 and the ceiling-mounted sculpture “FLOOR 2015”, the one that was originally created to be displayed on the ground.
On this occasion the color shifting words are installed above a circle of stone benches with carved lines from Anna Świrszczynśka poetry. Depending on the moment you enter a different atmosphere can be encountered. It changes depending on the light color and the subject of one of the five different works rendered on customized programming. Visitors can walk around or just sit on one of the stone benches and meditate on the words selected by Jenny Holzer. This installation includes five different series joined together.
There’s also a room with recent works based on testimonies from the Iraq war like an embroidered sleeping bag “I’ve Just Been Shot”, 2017 and LEDs “They Left Me”, 2018. A very intimate and disturbing room, this time with the irony absent and not required.
ARTIST ROOMS is jointly owned by the National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. The collection was established through The d’Offay Donation in 2008, with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund, and the Scottish and British Governments. For more information Artist Rooms