Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Inflammatory Essays by Jenny Holzer, 1979-82

I first happened upon Jenny Holzer’s Inflammatory Essays on a street in the Lower east Side, exactly where they belonged, wheat pasted on the plywood that blocked a construction site from view, not all of them, but three or four of them alternating and repeated, not far from where she lived.  It must have been in 1979 or 80. They could be seen in Soho also, sometimes individually or in pairs, near where most of the galleries were then, pasted on old walls and the bases of lamp posts.  I saw them again later at the Whitney Biennial.  Their power to confront and frighten was not much diminished by the institutional setting, but they took on a somewhat altered character. Since then I’ve become friends with some of her cohorts from COLAB (aka Collaborative Projects, Inc.)  I’ve heard all sorts of gossip and opinions about her, favorable and not, personal, social, and business minded.  What I’ve heard of her tends to reflect the contradictory character of the work that she is best known for.  I  happen to love the way she can speak so passionately, not only for me, but for those I despise.  It’s not at all flattering.  There are, at least, fifteen of these inflammatory essays (that I know of) and I’ve put them here and placed them in an order that makes sense to me.  As well as they spoke to the time in which they were made, I find they are prescient of this time now and ever more pertinent.



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