Jenny Holzer 'Top Secret' (Paris)

Jenny Holzer 'Top Secret' (Paris)

Monday, October 18, 2010Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Paris, France

Jenny Holzer 'Top Secret'
October 18 - December 1, 2010

Yvon Lambert Paris is happy to announce Jenny Holzerʼs fifth exhibition at the gallery, to take place from October 18th to December 1st, 2010.

Holzer is recognized as one of the most significant artists of her generation. Since her 2004 exhibition at the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria, Holzer has explored how government documents can be made into sensate and affecting objects and light projections. Her presentation of official emails, memoranda, reports, and policy directives regarding U.S. involvement in the Middle East recasts the anonymity and indirection of government and administrative language as the known materials that permit action. In her most recent paintings and LED sculptures, represented here, Holzer uses form as a way to articulate that individuals implement and suffer this language.

During recent research, Holzer found a number of highly redacted documents that consist of black, censored blocks and minimal writing (such as a crossed out ʻTOP SECRETʼ or a context-less ʻENDGAMEʼ). She had these documents replicated when hand rendered in her newest series of oil-on-linen paintings. In some instances, colored blocks replaced black squares and rectangles. Following Malevichʼs Suprematist model of color and order, Holzer injects a notion ofdiscretion and deliberation into formal abstraction. When she applies this model of painting to government documents, she contradicts that bureaucracy is a blank face. Holzer draws attention to the fact that individuals, not automatons, are responsible for the choice and implementation of procedures that result in information lying behind black. The implication is that war's consequences (from death to exile to political and economic instability) begin with determinations and not with gunfire or the first dropped bomb.

Though expertly executed, the paintings do not hide that they were made by hand. The hand is necessary here. By showing their manufacture and by shifting color, these seemingly formal paintings are revealed to be a set of actions and decisions. Analogously, the documents represent power not as a monolith but as a series of often-masked relationships. As a painting, the document is revealed to be the act, not just the evidence. While Malevichʼs revolutionary work suggested new beginnings at a time of seismic change, Holzerʼs melancholic return to its lost ambition points to our historical impasse with the hope that an endgame isnʼt a dead end or worse.

In the major LED installation, Purple, Holzer uses an array of signs (the shape of each evocative of a human rib or a shackle) to reveal facts, contradictions, and harrowing information. The piece streams text from a series of policy documents regarding the treatment of enemy combatants, autopsy reports of detainees who died in custody, documents detailing events and conditions at Guantánamo Bay, as well as pages concerning a case in which a fleeing Iraqi non-combatant was killed by American forces. Standing in the crossfire of this light and text, one feels the language to be immediate and physical. The distance that separates us from these events is belied. Keeping these latest wars and their ramifications present and palpable, Holzer urges us to attend to our recent past and our present before going blindly into what comes next.

Trained in the humanities and as a painter and printmaker, in the late 1970s Holzer turned to text, in posters, stone benches, and electronic signs, as the basis for her art. With language as her primary medium, Holzer investigates authorship and power while navigating themes such as hope, despair, fury, need, and longing. She has presented her projects in public places and international exhibitions, including Times Square, Londonʼs City Hall, the Neue Nationalgalerie, the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao, Centre Georges Pompidou, and the Louvre. Holzer represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1990 where she won the Leone d'Oro prize for best pavilion.