Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer was born in Gallipolis, Ohio, in 1950. She received a BA from Ohio University in Athens (1972); an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence (1977); and honorary doctorates from the University of Ohio (1993), the Rhode Island School of Design (2003), and New School University, New York (2005). Whether questioning consumerist impulses, describing torture, or lamenting death and disease, Jenny Holzer’s use of language provokes a response in the viewer.

While her subversive work often blends in among advertisements in public space, its arresting content violates expectations. Holzer’s texts—such as the aphorisms “Abuse of power comes as no surprise” and “Protect me from what I want”—have appeared on posters and condoms, and as electronic LED signs and projections of xenon light. Holzer’s recent use of text ranges from silk-screened paintings of declassified government memoranda detailing prisoner abuse to poetry and prose in a sixty-five-foot-wide wall of light in the lobby of 7 World Trade Center, New York.

She has received many awards, including the Golden Lion from the Venice Biennale (1990); the Skowhegan Medal (1994); and the Diploma of Chevalier (2000) from the French government. Major exhibitions include Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2001); Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (1997); Dia Art Foundation, New York (1989); and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1989). Since 1996, Holzer has organized public light projections in cities worldwide. She was the first woman to represent the United States in the Venice Biennale (1990). Jenny Holzer lives and works in Hoosick Falls, New York.

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Deep Focus

Futurized Worldview: Art as a Form of Soft Power

Diana McClure positions group-shows as significant influencers by showcasing multiple points of view on charged social topics like social justice and war.

Teaching with Contemporary Art

The Power of Words

Educator-in-Residence Jeannine Bardo shares her unit plan on language, in which students investigate the power of text through art.



Curator Elizabeth Smith shares her thoughts on Jenny Holzer’s 2008 exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, PROTECT PROTECT.


“For 7 World Trade” and “Redaction Paintings”

Artist Jenny Holzer discusses her works For 7 World Trade, Redaction Paintings, and Truisms, as well as her love of clichés and comic relief.


Collaborating with Poet Henri Cole

Artist Jenny Holzer and poet Henri Cole discuss how their collaboration began, and the ways in which their work together has evolved since.


“It’s not just the difficulty in having something turn out right, it’s the difficulty of staying with the material long enough to complete it.”

Jenny Holzer