Jenny Holzer's Pertinent Messages Relight the Guggenheim's Rotunda

Her spiraling ‘Light Line’ installation takes on added relevancy today as it did when first presented 35 years ago.

Art
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American artist Jenny Holzer is reprising her seminal 1989 installation, Light Line, across the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed rotunda at the Guggenheim museum in New York. Nearly 35 years since its inception, the electronic text-based installation has been updated with modern technology, and more notably, decades worth of haiku-like observations and fragmented epigrams, dubbed “Truisms” by the Brooklyn-based artist, pertaining violence, systemic injustices and threats to democracy.

“ABUSE OF POWER COMES AS NO SURPRISE” and “BAD INTENTIONS CAN YIELD GOOD RESULTS” are several of her most notable texts within the show — messages that hold the same relevancy today, as it did when first coined over three decades ago. There are a number of obscure pairings intended to spark dialogue, such as “SEX, BOREDOM MAKES YOU, NATURE’S WAY.”

The spiraling installation winds up six stories of the institution, double the length as in 1989, and for six hours at a time. As the New York Times notes, Holzer’s scrolling signboards predated the “crawls” that have become commonplace in virtually every journalistic setting since the attacks of September 11 — from news to sports. Playing at a slightly slower pace than the frenetic flashes of the original, Light Line appears “as if you’re drinking the words,” according to the exhibition’s curator, Lauren Hinkson.

Accompanying the central installation are a series of more recent multi-media works, such as Holzer’s Cursed (2022) series, which overlays former U.S. President Donald Trump’s inflammatory tweets on metal plates — some of actual toxic materials — chillingly reflecting on the incessant contradictions, racist and misogynistic messages Trump would post at virtually anytime before and during (not to mention after) his term in office. Also on view is a collaborative reinterpretation of Holzer’s “Inflammatory Essays” with New York-based artist Lee Quiñones, and a public text-based installation on the Guggenheim’s exterior facade. In the latter, and displayed during the evening hours, Holzer projects poems by writers such as Anne Carson, Henri Cole and Yehuda Amichai, amongst others.

Light Line opened today at the Guggenheim and will be on view until September 29, 2024, while the outdoor installation ends on May 20, 2024.

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