Jenny Holzer’s Hypocrisy

Walls of the Guggenheim Museum bathed in a purple glow. A scrolling LED text installation winds up the ramps of the Guggenheim Museum, displaying texts written and curated by the artist, leading to a blue sky beyond the oculus.
Installation view, Jenny Holzer: L: right Line, May 17-September 29, 2024. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. @2024 Jenny Holzer, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Photo: Filip Wolak

“I want people to concentrate on the content of the writing and not ‘who done it.’ I want the work to be of utility to as many people as possible. And I think if it were attributed to me, it would be easier to toss.”

Quote by Jenny Holzer from Art21

Recently, I wrote an opinion piece on the suspect politics of Maurizio Cattelan’s show at Gagosian Gallery — it questioned why successful artists who make political claims for their work do not use their privilege to engage in direct political commentary and action rather than critique by analogy. I’m not suggesting they need to engage in social practices like Mel Chin or Tania Bruguera; I think artists like Cattelan can be more direct in their criticism or more like Theaster Gates, who acknowledges the contradictions and privilege that comes with his success to the degree that he openly differentiates between museums and institutional exhibits that permit him to experimentation and his gallery exhibits that afford him market engagement. Meanwhile, while those works have an implied politic, he is an activist who focuses on community development, which is realized through his Chicago-based Rebuild Foundation, which is a platform for cultural development and neighborhood transformation. This multifaceted approach enables Gates to navigate and influence both the art world and broader societal issues without collapsing one into the other.

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