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Jenny Holzer, THE PEOPLE
Sept. 17-21, 7:15-11pm
Jenny Holzer is a celebrated American artist who uses language as her primary medium. In the late 1970s, she created her Truisms, a series of one-line aphorisms such as “Abuse of power comes as no surprise” and “Bad intentions can yield good results.” While individual statements have the ring of truth, in combination they give rise to contradictions and ambiguities. Holzer displayed the texts in public spaces, including on posters and electronic signs, to encourage viewers to think more deeply about commonly held beliefs.
Projected on the National Mall-facing facades of the Hirshhorn and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, THE PEOPLE is a new artwork featuring quotations Holzer gathered from ancient history to the present on the subject of democracy. The work was commissioned by the Department of State’s Office of Art in Embassies to mark its 60th anniversary and to celebrate its Democracy Collection initiative. The projection will be on view beginning at dusk (approximately 7:15pm) through 11pm on Sunday, September 17. THE PEOPLE will continue nightly through September 21.
Independent curator Nora Halpern organized this project on behalf of Art in Embassies.
Holzer’s work also heralds the arrival of the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Art in Embassies traveling exhibition, “A More Perfect Union: American Artists and the Currents of Our Time” at the National Museum of American History, on view Sept. 19-Oct. 20. The exhibition, composed in celebration of the Office’s 60th anniversary under the leadership of Ambassador Megan Beyer, features Democracy Collection initiative’s support for the centrality of artists, their art and ideas to the health of democracy. The exhibition includes works by some of America’s leading contemporary artists including Aliza Nizenbaum, Amy Sherald and Hank Willis Thomas.
On Sept. 19, 1-4:30pm, the National Museum of American History will host “Democracy Day: Art and Democracy in American History”, afternoon of artist filled public programming on Sept. 19 will kick-off the opening of the traveling exhibition “A More Perfect Union: American Artists and the Currents of Our Time.” Join Kal Penn, Deb Kass, Hank Willis Thomas, Sanford Biggers, Alfre Woodard, Patty Cronin, Alexis Rockman and more as the Smithsonian National Museum of American History teams up with the Karsh Institute of Democracy and the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Art in Embassies to present exhibition tours by artists, conversations about the relationship between art and democracy in America, and demonstrations and activities to engage museum visitors. The conversations over the course of the afternoon will explore different ways that art informs and shapes democracy and democratic culture.
About Jenny Holzer
With 40 years of experience, Jenny Holzer expresses ideas, joys, and sorrows in public places and international exhibitions. Her work has been featured at the Venice Biennale, the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Her medium, whether a T-shirt, plaque, or LED sign, is writing, and the public dimension is integral to her work. Starting in the 1970s with her New York City street posters and continuing through her recent light projections on landscape and architecture, her works reflect humor, kindness, and courage.
Holzer received the Department of State’s Medal of Arts in 2017, the Leone d’Oro at the Venice Biennale in 1990, and the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award in 1996. She holds honorary degrees from Williams College, the Rhode Island School of Design, The New School, and Smith College. She lives and works in New York.
Image credit: Portrait of the artist. Courtesy of U.S. Department of State’s Office of Art in Embassies. Photo by Nanda Lanfranco.