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Posted Aug 11, 2010 in Arts | 0 Comments

Jenny Holzer

DHC Art in Old Montreal is currently hosting an exhibition of works by Jenny Holzer.  I first encountered her famous LED signs and projected writing while traveling in the late eighties, but hadn’t followed up much on her current works. Fortunately the show at DHC picks up where I had left off, and I was pleasantly surprised to find not only eye-blistering LED signs, but paintings and found objects (if one can describe human bones on tables so coldly) as well. I don’t think I have ever encountered an artist so able to integrate political messages in their work and still leave you wanting more by the end of the show.

Holzer is best known for using text in a variety of media and often in public spaces. Often these are short poignant phrases, her most famous of these being the series of Truisms she began writing in the late seventies.

Her more recent work continues to be text based however, and instead of using her own material she has sourced images and documents from declassified U.S. Army files from the Iraq war.

In film, they say it’s what you don’t see that scares you more than what you do see. The censored passages of the monumental prisoner interrogation silkscreens are more frightening than the details we are left to read.

The same goes for the two accompanying LED pieces, Thorax and Ribcage. Unable to read the scrolling and flashing texts for too long one is left wondering how much more disturbing the war accounts can get. This question is answered however when the artist brings you face-to-face with the horrors of war with her two Lustmord Tables.

Human bones are lined up in neat rows. It is impossible to tell how many different bodies are represented here as the bones are arranged in rows according to type. Some of the bones bear small bands of text, forcing the viewer to bend very close in order to read them.

The second part of the show features two of Holzers’ room-sized LED installations scrolling text both from her Truisms as well as longer pieces she has written. Unfortunately the insightfulness of these pieces seems faded after the brutality of the first part of the show and I would recommend a second trip in order to appreciate the whole thing.

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