Jenny Holzer, Times Square Sign, 1982
The language of Truisms, obdurate and internally consistent, heralded a voice that is striking not least for its paradoxical anonymity. Truisms pull no punches and as the title suggests, seem to reflect wisdom long since received.
Hal Foster, writing in 1982, called Trusims “verbal anarchy in the streets.” For Holzer, “language is the site of pure conflict.” The Trusims as a whole express a simple truth: that truth is created through contradictions.” In an article that linked Holzer with Barbara Kruger, Foster cited Roland Barthes, articulating that, both artists, follow Barthesian precepts to the extent that they “accept the status of art as a social sign engaged with other signs”. And they both embody Barthes’ notion of the writer, which as Barthes described, is “not the possessor of a function or the servant of an art, but the subject of praxis. Someone who must have the persistence of a watcher who stands at the crossroads of all other discourses. The quality of these statements that has most attracted critical attention is how difficult they make it for readers to determine their author’s position. Holzer stated ” I wanted to highlight those thoughts and topics that polarize people, but not choose sides.”
Holzer summarized in 1990. “I hope”, she concluded. “that my work is useful.”