Jenny Holzer has created numerous public artworks based on several series of texts she began writing in the late 1970s, shortly after she moved to New York. These pieces have taken the form of posters, t-shirts, billboards, neon and LED signs, floor tiles, furniture, and video. Holzer wrote the Survival Series between 1983-1985, in an urgent “matter of fact” tone. The resulting phrases question how people respond to their political, social, and psychological environments. While the first Series was created specifically for electronic signs, Holzer later expanded the project to include other media, like stone benches. Here, the text IN A DREAM / YOU SAW A WAY / TO SURVIVE / AND YOU WERE / FULL OF JOY is hand-chiseled in capital letters on the smooth surface of a small white marble bench.
Holzer’s engraved marble and granite benches are often commissioned for specific outdoor locations or exhibitions. In 1990, she created a group of benches based on her Inflammatory Essays, when she was selected as the first woman to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. Placed in courtyards, parks, and other outdoor settings, the benches perhaps recall cemetery furniture or garden seating, but they function as more than just platforms for her texts. They are also striking, sensuous, and useful objects, offering a contemplative place to sit and consider both the message contained on its surface and the surrounding site. As Holzer herself notes, “People talk about the content, and that’s right, but very few mention how the stuff looks, and that’s important.”
© 2019 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (Right)