08.04.2011 - 06.09.2011
Art Stations gallery
08.04.2011 8:00 p.m.
(a light projection will be presented after the opening)
Art Stations Foundation is pleased to present an exhibition of recent work by Jenny Holzer.
Holzer is recognized as one of the most significant artists of her generation. Trained as a painter and printmaker, she turned to text in posters, stone benches, and electronic signs, as the basis for her art. With language as her primary medium, Holzer investigates authorship and power while navigating themes such as hope, despair, need, and longing.
She has presented her ideas, arguments and sorrows in public places and international exhibitions, including Times Square, London’s City Hall, the Neue Nationalgalerie, and the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao. Holzer represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1990 where she won the Leone d'Oro prize for best pavilion.
Beginning with her 2004 exhibition at the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria, Holzer has made the study of declassified United States government documents central to her practice. Incorporating memos, sworn statements, emails, directives, judgments, and other government materials regarding the situation in the Middle East into paintings, large scale light projections, and electronic signs, Holzer makes material the accounting of war and torture.
Though she presented documents as light projections and the content of electronic signs in the Bregenz exhibition, Truth Before Power, Holzer began her Redaction Paintings in 2005. Working directly from copies of government documents frequently so heavily censored (or redacted) that only a few words remain within black lines or rectangles, she silk-screened and scaled up the redacted material onto painted linen. Holzer’s presentation of government documents activates the senses and recasts the anonymity and indirection of government and administrative language as affecting and wounding objects.
The Redaction Paintings, a focus of this exhibition, present materials that are available to any person. In most cases the documents have been assembled and disseminated by organizations located in the United States such as the National Security Archive and the American Civil Liberties Union. These organizations, and others like them, work outside of the U.S. government but serve in both an advocacy and watchdog capacity to ensure that democracy is transparent and functions. These paintings point to the antagonisms within government that can lead to new ideas and solutions, and, ultimately, ask us to think about how we shape the future.
Holzer’s exhibition at Art Stations Foundation consists of recent paintings and one of her early granite benches.
Three series of paintings are presented at Art Stations. In one, each oil-on-linen painting depicts a handprint of an American soldier accused, but not necessarily convicted, of a crime in Iraq. Over every handprint, a censor has attempted to efface the identifying marks of the individual by drawing over it in black. The variety of drawing methods is not a study in formalism and abstraction; the range of works and styles reveal the layering of individuals and histories that are forced together in the execution of war. Moving beyond the abstractions of politics and policy, the handprint paintings reveal them to be a physical palimpsest of persons. Culled from documents made public through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, Holzer’s paintings refuse to be read from the fixity of any single point of view.
In one harrowing painting, there are no marks of effacement or censoring. This painting, in the GK Collection, is the postmortem handprint of a detainee who died in American custody. We do not see the layering of persons and graphic marks as we have in the other works; we imagine the hand that lifted the dead man’s to ink and then paper to make the distorted imprint.
In the second series of paintings, Holzer found a number of highly redacted documents and substituted their black, censored blocks with colored ones, when made into silkscreen paintings. Following Malevich’s Suprematist model of color and order, Holzer injects a notion of choice, discretion, and deliberation into formal abstraction. When she applies this model of painting to government documents, she belies that bureaucracy is a blank face. Holzer draws attention to the fact that individuals, not automatons, are responsible for the rules, choices of, and implementation of procedures that result in information lying behind black. By discreetly placing herself within these seemingly formal paintings by a selection of color, she also hints that power and bureaucracy are, at their core, an amalgamated set of individual decisions. This series of works will be complemented by two paintings by the Polish Constructivist artist Henryk Stazewski to create a dialogue between Holzer’s recent practice and the Eastern European historical avant-garde.
Another series of paintings represented in the exhibition are her maps. These paintings, with one shown in this exhibition, reproduce slides of a PowerPoint presentation given by the United States Central Command to the White House, proposing strategies for the invasion of Iraq. The paintings reveal the business of war, the enthusiastic shorthand used to define the objectives and procedures, and the gulf between intention and what becomes reality.
A gallery in the Italian Pavilion of the 2007 Venice Biennale was devoted to Holzer’s continuing series of declassified document paintings, as well as a large-scale traveling exhibition organized by Fondation Beyeler and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2008-2010).