Preview: Jenny Holzer at BALTIC

For Chicago, 2007, 10 electronic signs with amber diodes. Installation: Jenny Holzer, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. ©2010 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo: Colin Davison

Exhibition: Jenny Holzer, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, until May 16 2010

After more than 30 years making art from text, Jenny Holzer’s most recent work concerns censorship and the deletion of politically sensitive words and phrases.

US Government documents relating to the Middle East comprise the source material for her new Redaction Paintings, a departure from the poetic slogans which form the bulk of Holzer’s work.

Meanwhile Red Yellow Looming from 2004 may look like a classic LED piece by the New York-based artist, but again the text is taken from official memoranda.

But fans of Holzer’s earlier work should not be disappointed by the show at BALTIC, which is her largest exhibition in the UK to date.

The 22 bands of text which form Monument together with the words in luminous new floor based installation For Chicago are all drawn from her extensive writings and oft-quoted Truisms.

Such trademark statements are equally bold whatever the scale, and have appeared everywhere from condom wrappers to building facades. Throughout her career, Holzer has rarely been afraid to say the unsayable.

So it is alarming to find her come up against her limits at last, in the redacted texts of military ventures which have so far proved impervious to agitprop.

Written for Culture24.

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