Rejoice! Our Times are Intolerable
In the face of a millenial, Jenny Holzer’s language-based works read: one-liners, clickbait, and #alternativefacts. Per usual, the millennial would be right. Alden Projects latest exhibition REJOICE! OUR TIMES ARE INTOLERABLE: Jenny Holzer’s Street Posters,1977-82, is a narrow focus of the artist's first two series of work, Truisms (1977-79) and Inflammatory Essays (1977-82).
Holzer devised nearly 300 aphorisms playing on commonly held truths that she printed and anonymously wheat-pasted all over lower Manhattan in the '70s. Truisms are pronouncements, poetic invitations to take action. The voice is non-unitary, spewing contradictory tenets in black ink on white paper. Alden Projects includes early versions of the prints for comparison allowing a timeline view of how the work methodically developed, as the posters were updated and alphabetized over the years.
The manifesto-like Inflammatory Essays are italicized, mostly all-capped, shouting content derived from politicians, radical feminists, dictators, anarchists, and biblical prophets. Around 30 different “essays” are squared-off on colored papers. Each paper hosts 100-word texts on 20 lines urging a particular ideology and ruthless criticisms of our time.
Both Truisms and Essays found themselves repurposed throughout the artist’s work, reappearing on t-shirts and hats, marble benches and LED signs. Since the '80s, the style of Holzer’s essays has been altered by a long line of Tumblr bloggers and fine artists using the street poster aesthetic topped with popular texts from our contemporaries, aka Drake lyrics.
Holzer’s work is on view at Alden Projects through February 12. Her words appear next as a projection onto the facade of the Aarhus Theatre in Denmark on February 25.