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Jenny Holzer

1. Jenny Holzer is an American artist, born in Ohio in the 1950’s. She received her undergraduate degree from Ohio University and continued to receive degrees from several colleges of art. These colleges included Williams College, the Rhode Island School of Design, The New School, and Smith College. She later moved to New York after joining Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program; where she currently lives and creates her works of art. Holzer’s father owned a Ford Dealership and her mother taught horseback riding lessons before marrying. A few artists that she was inspired by include, Tom Otterness, Robin Winters, Colen Fitzgibbon, and Diego Cortez.

2. Holzer started off by painting simplified writings into phrases all over the city. Her statements could be found on buildings, phone booths, and benches. She wanted to reach a larger audience, so in 1996, Holzer began creating large scale installations using large, bright projectors to light up billboards, buildings, and rivers with statements. Most of her work focuses on cruelty, in hopes that people will recoil. She pulls sentences and statements from literature and unclassified letters. Her goal is to keep the statements short, sustained, and hold the publics’ interest. Time is a major factor that she takes into consideration when creating art. She believes that in a busy city like New York, people have limited time and wants to ensure they are able to appreciate the content.

Additionally, she tries hard to ensure people will focus solely on the content rather than the artist. In addition to her projections, she also produces still works that are paintings of transcribed classified documents, letters from our military men overseas that were sent to the government, and various released government information. Holzer has honorably earned the Golden Lion from Venice Biennale Award in 1990, The Skowhegan Medal in 1994, and the Diploma of Chevalier in 2000. When Holzer is not working on art, she enjoys spending time at the stables with horses.

3. Jenny Holzer was asked to create something for the 7 World Trade Center lobby once they were rebuilt after the tragic attack on our nation. She knew that she did not want to display a remembrance of the tragedy or anything that would bring about negative emotions, but rather include what there is too love about living in New York City. She stated, “I was invited to make something for the lobby at 7 World Trade Center. After much stewing, I came up with the idea of doing text in the wall- not memorial text, but text about the joy of being in New York City. I despaired of writing for the piece, as I often do, and I came to poems by a number of different authors- everyone from Walt Whitman to William Carlos Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, and many more.”

4. BMW Art Car was created in 1999. Being the daughter of a car dealer, she grew up around cars her whole life. This particular fact connected her with this piece. The work itself presented Holzer with a challenge as it was much different than her LED projections. She believes that the BMW race car represents speed and beauty, both of which everyone loves. Holzer’s design was based on traditional BMW colors and materials used in motor racing. The car features saying’s such as, “PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT,” “THE UNATTAINABLE IS INVARIABLY ATTRACTIVE,” “LACK OF CHARISMA CAN BE FATAL,” YOU ARE SO COMPLEX, YOU DON’T RESPOND TO DANGER,” “WHAT URGE WILL SAVE US NOW THAT SEX WON’T?” and “MONOMANIA IS A PREREQUISITE TO SUCCESS.” She chose text that would make sense to the racing public.

She wanted to make them laugh and even feel a little anxious. To create the lettering, she used light and shiny foil. It glowed at night, and reflected light during the daytime. The Art Car participated in a preliminary lap at the Le Mans prior to the actual race. Protect Protect was designed and installed in 2008. Holzer created an electronic sign using nontraditional media. She used language as a medium for this LED sculpture.

Protect Protect is a large scale installation that focuses on her work over the past 15 years. The text includes selections of Holzer’s writings from 1977 to 2001, as well as declassified pages from U.S. government documents. The exhibition’s title refers to a past painting of hers that integrates an unclassified U.S. government document revealing plans for the Iraq war, and it also relates to the problematic potential of our own lusts, as conveyed in one of Holzer’s renowned statements, “PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT”. We are drawn in by the text that moves hypnotically on the walls. The statements are intense as they circulate. Our eyes become drawn in and even a little disturbed as we read what they say. The installation certainly contributes to psychological focus as the text can be unsettling.

The words are in a variety of primary and secondary colors. 5. In both works, Holzer carefully considers all aspects of each work; including size, color, shape, and font. Another similarity between the two pieces of art is that Holzer uses an interplay of language, objects, and context as equal elements which make her work unique. Both works are three dimensional. The two artworks have many differences however. Protect Protect is a large scale installation, whereas BMW Art Car is life-size. Protect Protect uses LED lighting and intense use of primary and secondary colors. BMW Art Car uses traditional BMW colors white, blue, and black. Protect Protect was created with LED signs and electronic installation. BMW Art Car was created using traditional motor parts and shiny foil for the lettering.

6. Some believe that Holzer’s strength lies in her medium, not her message. I believe that it’s a dissonance between them. When I look at the BMW Art Car I think of speed. It also takes me back to childhood because my dad used to drive BMW’s. When I look at Protect Protect, I can sense the tension behind what the messages are conveying. The vivid yellow, red, purple, blue, and pink lights are seductive and mesmerizing. The colors express “beauty yet, pain” and “pleasure yet, violence.”

7. Cindy Sherman was born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey on January 19th of 1954. She grew up in Huntington, Long Island with her four older siblings. Her father was an engineer and mom, a reading teacher. Growing up, art was not influenced in her life. It was when she began studying painting at State University College at Buffalo, that she developed an interest for the world of art. She learned not long afterwards that she did not have the desire to paint anymore because she felt that she had nothing left to say through painting. She then picked up the camera and explored into the studies of photography. Graduating in 1976, she then moved to NYC to begin her career in photography.

8. American born photographer Cindy Sherman intricately disguised herself as women that reflected their social roles and stereotypes and take conceptual portraits. Often, Sherman challenged the stereotypes of our cultural portrayed by the media. She would use exaggerated features to emphasize the social representation and portrayal of the character that she was shooting. Sherman began using black and white in her series of sixty-nine “Untitled Film Stills” and then progressed to color films with large prints. The lighting and facial expression were the two keys to shooting a successful portrait.

9. We notice that many of the characters in Sherman’s portraits are nearly the same. These Untitled Film Stills portrayed the roles of women since World War II. Featuring characters from film noir, these images caught the attention of women who grew up seeing glamourous ladies on television. Cindy Sherman produced a “Sex” series in 1989 where she constructed medical mannequins in disturbing sexual positions as a response to the NEA funding cuts and attempt to censor photographers.

10. Most famous for her “Complete Untitled Film Stills” developed in 1977 and were all black and white. There was a total of sixty nine photographs featuring interior, rural and urban landscapes. Her photos remained ambiguous as she didn’t label them with titles. The photos are 8 ½ x 11 inches each and displayed in matching black frames; this was quite modest compared to her other works. The portraits included props such as groceries, cigarettes, a letter and envelope, wine glasses, mirrors, suitcases, and a bicycles. Sherman posed as a housewife, a prostitute and a dancer as well as other roles situated around women.

Specifically, we notice the first six portraits are grainy and not a clearly focused. The actress appears to be the same in all six. Woman in Sun Dress was photographed in 2003. It’s 30×20 inches. The warm hues of the background’s sunset expresses contentment. It’s also possible that the colors of the sunset coincide with the California’s sunny landscape. The woman appears to have had plastic surgery and burnt by the sun as she is much tanned with bathing suit lines. Sherman is representing the identity that is expected of women in today’s society; expressing that they will easily lose their identity in order to conform to the perfection that is expected of women.

11. Comparing Sherman’s “Untitled Film Stills” and “Woman in Sun Dress” we notice many similarities and differences. The film stills and women are both small scale, but one being 8 ½ x 11 inches and the other 30 x 20 inches. “Untitled” is all black and white and the background features a variety of three dimensional landscapes. Whereas, “Woman in Sun Dress” is in color, featuring a contemporary, flat background. Both works use the same medium, a camera. Cindy’s work is conceptual and both pieces feature abstract and realistic qualities.

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