Sunday, May 31, 2009

Jenny Holzer Protect Protect

I was blown away by the Jenny Holzer show at the Whitney, Protect Protect.

I have loved her work since I saw a huge show in 89 at the Whitney, although that, 20 years ago, was the last time I saw any of it "live" (not in a book or article).

I don't know how to talk intelligently about my experience of her pieces. The words cut through in this way that is piercingly intimate, yet also cold and public and indifferent and institutional. Because of the sophisticated way that she visually presents the text -- layered, lots happening -- the words accost; and yet it's through your mesmerized effort at taking them in that you read them. You have to be there for them. You can walk away, you don't have to give them your attention, and yet you stand there absorbing them, being implicated by them.

Her work is not "enjoyable" -- it's unpleasant being surrounded by flashing lights, it's like an experience of hyper consumer modernity. Yet there is something so tender, and fragile about much of the text. At least for those that employ her early writings. My favorite was the one pictured here, For Chicago, which I wish I had given more time to.

Other pieces are more overtly political, using text from her Inflammatory Essays, or from these very scary declassified documents. They spoke to me less, but I was utterly moved and awed by them. They really implicate you in the violence that our nation is doing in the world. These works included more of the LED installations as well as haunting paintings of the documents, including a full room of paintings of hand prints, that were stunning, powerful.

The show closes today. I wish I had time to go back. I feel like I rushed through...

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