Jenny Holzer: Words of Conflict

As three new commissions open this year in the UK and Abu Dhabi, the US artist reflects on the continued dominance of war as a theme in her work and says she longs for Trump to be “in the past tense”

Jenny Holzer has put words in unexpected places for nearly 40 years. Her texts have been flyposted across buses and boats, flashed across electronic billboards and, when she was the first woman to represent the US at the Venice Biennale in 1990, engraved into the US Pavilion’s marble floor. The Ohio-born artist has projected verses of poetry onto the banks of the Tiber, inscribed accounts of sex crimes in ink onto human skin and engraved them into silver bands attached to human bones. In recent years, she has also returned to her earliest artistic roots by making paintings that meticulously reproduce declassified and often redacted US war documents concerning Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now Holzer has been commissioned by the Blenheim Art Foundation to make work for Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, UK, which is itself a spoil of war, given to John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, as a reward for defeating the French at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. Holzer has also made works for the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the new US Embassy in London, both due to be unveiled later this year.


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