Since the 1970s, Jenny Holzer has deployed language as her medium, mobilizing poetic, political and personal texts to speak to our experiences of power, violence, joy, despair and idealism. The renowned American artist presents new and recent paintings and robotic LEDs at Hauser & Wirth’s West Hollywood location, marking her first major exhibition in Los Angeles since 2012 and the first time she has employed artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in her text-based practice.
Among the new works Holzer has created for the exhibition are two robotic vertical LEDs installed side by side, ‘GOOD’ (2023) and ‘BAD’ (2023), each displaying AI-generated texts. The latest development in a career-long conceptual exploration of both original and borrowed language, the artist’s experiments with AI pose new questions of authorship prompted by the re/degenerate nature of new technology. Also on view is ‘WTF’ (2022), a swinging LED beam that displays tweets posted by Donald Trump during his presidency and posts by Q, the eponymous leader of the QAnon conspiracy movement. ‘WTF’ slides along a track in an unpredictable cadence, echoing the erratic rhythm with which these messages first appeared online.
Inspired by the curse tablets of the Greco-Roman world, which were inscribed with citizens’ wishes for vengeance and curses upon their foes, Holzer’s tablets feature tweets by Trump, echoing the LED above them. They were created by stamping the tweets onto cast metal, then distressing and aging the objects through crumpling, folding, piercing and chemical baths. Like deformed or molten iterations of the artist’s previous evocations of public plaques, these damaged tablets suggest refuse, wreckage and devastation. Together, these works form a time capsule of the recent past while signaling the possible near future, both recording and reflecting the hyperbolic, enraged rhetoric that characterizes the contemporary political and media landscape.
‘Cursed’ is comprised of stamped lead and copper with precious metal plating, patinas and pigments. 296 elements in total.
The gallery walls are lined with Holzer’s latest works from her ongoing series of Redaction Paintings, which are based on her decades-long research into declassified government documents. Holzer has taken pages from these sources and transferred them to linen by hand, meticulously layering their contents and censored revisions with oil paint and metal leaf. The paintings include references from FBI records concerning the Patriot Act, Trump-era briefs, and a 2021 report from the US National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence that analyzes the rapid advancement of AI technology. The luminous and richly textured surfaces of these new works explore both real and perceived dangers to democracy through the ongoing and interconnected tumults of current-day politics.
‘Make Life Better’ – a Learning initiative that empowers youth to use their voices through a wheatpaste poster campaign answering Holzer’s prompt: ‘What is most important to know and do to make life better?’
Jenny Holzer is an American conceptual and installation artist whose work deploys text in public spaces across an array of media, including electronic signs, carved stone, paintings, billboards, and printed materials. Holzer’s oeuvre provokes public debate and illuminates social and political justice. Celebrated for her inimitable use of language and projects in the public sphere, Holzer creates a powerful tension between the realms of feeling and knowledge, with a practice that encompasses both individual and collective experiences of power and violence, vulnerability and tenderness.