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  • 'I like to compose the presentation of language…I like to make the language spatial. I like coming at it various ways to various ends.' —Jenny HolzerHarnessing writing in its most raw, simplistic visual depiction, Holzer uses words, language, a multitude of media and the public arena to remark upon the paradoxes and extreme subjects and situations in society. Starting out as a street artist in the 1970s with the New York City posters, the accessibility of her work is a crucial component, both in terms of placement and appearance. Neutral and concise the worded format is clearly presented, ‘I want people to get what I put out or at least be constructively mystified.’i Discussing her use of capital letters in her messaging, Holzer reflected, ‘I went to all CAPS early on, by the second street poster everything was capitalised and italicised to show some sense of urgency and to speak a bit loudly and also for the text to look strong. In the street there is a lot of competition.’ii Holzer’s simple phrases resonate with a poetic veracity which the artist attributes to her Midwestern background. ‘Midwesterners are impatient with things that are too elaborate or too silly. They want to get things done so they do it in the most expeditious way – expeditious as in fast and right.’iii

     

    Throughout her oeuvre, Holzer presents her scathing ideas and arguments, tackling difficult moral themes: the AIDS epidemic, conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Syria, gun violence, prostitution and women’s experiences among other subjects. She notes, ‘We don’t need to work on joy… but one must argue with cruelty, homicide, abuse of any sort. So, I like to argue.’iv

     

    Often reusing the messaging from her previous works, Arno, 1998, is an extension of Holzer’s first xenon projection in 1996, part of a collaboration with Helmut Lang for the Biennale di Firenze. The text, Arno, was projected from a canoe club across the river onto the facade of a brothel. Unifying the language within the text and the public display, Arno explores physical sexual experience and the reasons to be naked or clothed, from sex to shame and murder. She notes, ‘The Arno writing started as text for a video directed by Mark Pellington for ‘Red Hot and Dance’, an AIDS fundraiser. I rewrote it for the ‘Biennale di Firenze: il Tempo e la Moda’ show in Florence. The text rose on signs in the pavilion I shared with Helmut Lang. In the middle of the night it was shown on the Arno River; this was my first Xenon projection. A variation of the text is at the Guggehnheim, Bilbao.’v Alongside the projection in Florence, Holzer and Helmut Lang created a perfume, bringing to life the line ‘I SMELL YOU ON MY SKIN’ – a heady scent of alcohol, tobacco, starch, sweat and sperm: ‘a love of some sort.’vi

     

    Holzer’s writing and mode of reaching its audience; from posters, T-shirts, marble carvings, LED signs and light projections, contests ignorance, brutality and oppression with compassion, wit and courage. Put simply, for Holzer, ‘language is a good way to convey meaning.’ vii

     

    Jenny Holzer 
    Arno

     

    I WALK IN
    I SEE YOU
    I WATCH YOU
    I SCAN YOU
    I WAIT FOR YOU
    I TICKLE YOU
    I TEASE YOU
    I SEARCH YOU
    I BREATHE YOU
    I TALK 
    I SMILE
    I TOUCH YOUR HAIR
    YOU ARE THE ONE
    YOU ARE THE ONE WHO DID THIS TO ME
    YOU ARE MY OWN

     

    I SHOW YOU
    I FEEL YOU 
    I ASK YOU
    I DON’T ASK
    I WON’T ASK YOU
    I CAN’T TELL YOU
    I LIE

     

    I AM CRYING HARD
    THERE WAS BLOOD
    NO ONE TOLD ME
    NO ONE KNEW
    MY MOTHER KNOWS

     

    I FORGET YOUR NAME
    I DON’T THINK
    I BURY MY HEAD
    I BURY YOU

     

    MY FEVER 
    MY SKIN
    I CANNOT BREATHE
    I CANNOT EAT
    I CANNOT WALK 
    I AM LOSING TIME
    I AM LOSING GROUND
    I CANNOT STAND IT

     

    I CRY 
    I CRY OUT
    I BITE
    I BITE YOUR LIP
    I BREATHE YOUR BREATH 
    I PULSE
    I PRAY
    I PRAY ALOUD
    I SMELL YOU ON MY SKIN

     

    I SAY THE WORD
    I SAY YOUR NAME
    I COVER YOU
    I SHELTER YOU
    I RUN FROM YOU
    I SLEEP BESIDE YOU
    I SMELL YOU ON MY CLOTHES 
    I KEEP YOUR CLOTHES

     

    Installation shot:  Bolzano, Museion, Che cosa sono le nuvole, 7 February - 2 May 2010. Left: Jenny Holzer, Arno. Table: Zoe Leonard, Untitled, 2003, 5 banana skins, 7 grapefruit skins, 5 orange skins, stickers, thread, buttons, zipper, needles, string. Back wall: Painting by Spencer Finch. Image: © Antonio Maniscalco. © Zoe Leonard. © Spencer Finch.
    Installation shot: Bolzano, Museion, Che cosa sono le nuvole, 7 February - 2 May 2010. Left: Jenny Holzer, Arno. Table: Zoe Leonard, Untitled, 2003, 5 banana skins, 7 grapefruit skins, 5 orange skins, stickers, thread, buttons, zipper, needles, string. Back wall: Painting by Spencer Finch. Image: © Antonio Maniscalco. © Zoe Leonard. © Spencer Finch.

     

    Being There: Revisiting Tuesday Evenings at the Modern- Jenny Holzer
     

    i Jenny Holzer in interview with Foundation Beyeler, online

    ii Ibid.

    iii Bruce Ferguson, ‘Wordsmith: An Interview with Jenny Holzer by Bruce Ferguson’, Jenny Holzer: Signs, exh. cat., Des Moines Art Center, 1971, p. 66

    iv Jenny Holzer in interview with Foundation Beyeler, online

    v Jenny Holzer in interview with Joan Simon in Samuel Beckett, Elias Canetti and Jenny Holzer, Jenny Holzer, London, 1998, p.33
    vi Jenny Holzer in interview with Joan Simon in Samuel Beckett, Elias Canetti and Jenny Holzer, Jenny Holzer, London, 1998, p.33
    vii Jenny Holzer in interview with Foundation Beyeler, online

    • Provenance

      Yvon Lambert Gallery, Paris
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1999

    • Exhibited

      Paris, Yvon Lambert, Jenny Holzer: Blue, 21 September - 31 October 1998
      Avignon, Collection Lambert, Theorema, Une Collection Privée en Italie. La Collection d'Enea Righi, 5 February - 29 May 2005, p. 238, 241 (illustrated, p. 64)
      Bolzano, Museion, Che Cosa Sono Le Nuvole?, 21 March - 19 September 2010, p. 264 (illustrated, p. 54)
      Avignon, La Prison Sainte-Anne, La Disparition des Lucioles, 18 May - 25 November 2014, p. 376 (illustrated, p. 54)
      Modena, MATA, The Mannequin of History: Art after the Fabrications of Critique and Culture, 18 September 2015 - 31 January 2016, pl. 48, n.p. (illustrated)

    • Artist Biography

      Jenny Holzer

      American • 1950

      Jenny Holzer is a Conceptual artist best known for her text-based public art projects. Holzer's work speaks of violence, oppression, sexuality, feminism, power, war and death. Throughout the years, Holzer has employed a variety of media, from a T-shirt to a plaque to an LED sign. Starting in the 1970s with the New York City posters, and continuing through her recent light projections on landscape and architecture, she uses her art as a form of communication and commentary. Holzer's art hangs in important collections around the globe including 7 World Trade Center, the Venice Biennale, the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao and the Whitney Museum of American Art. 

      View More Works

110

Arno

vertical electronic LED sign with blue diodes
277.1 x 13.4 x 9.6 cm (109 1/8 x 5 1/4 x 3 3/4 in.)
Executed in 1998, this work is number 1 from an edition of 5.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for £126,000

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Director, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

+ 44 20 7318 4065
[email protected]

Out of the Blue: The Enea Righi Collection

London Auction 16 April 2021