Jenny Holzer

War Paintings

Holzer’s Venice Biennale exhibition takes as its starting point declassified and other sensitive U.S. government documents concerning the global ‘War on Terror’ that followed the events of September 11, 2001, as well as the United States military operations in Afghanistan an Iraq.

Her paintings are drawn from memoranda, planning maps, diplomatic communiqués, interrogation records, autopsy reports, and the handwritten cri de coer of detainees themselves – which prior to release to the public, the censor heavily redacted.

The transformation of documents into ravishing silk-screened and hand-painted oil on linen paintings (several times their original size) invites the visitor both to read and to look.

Critics have compared Holzer’s painted work to Andy Warhol’s early 1960s Death and Disaster series, the works of Russian Suprematist Kazimir Malevich, Abstract Expressionism, the ‘dust writing’ of Arabic calligraphy, and even the anonymous street posters that began Holzer’s carrer with her hope they might provoke thoughtful discussion and lively public debate.

Published on the occasion of the exhibition Jenny Holzer: War Paintings at Museo Correr (Four Doors Room), Venice Biennale, 7 May – 22 November 2015.

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