Jenny Holzer’s first solo show in Los Angeles in more than 20 years — only her second to date — is a taut mini-survey consisting of works dating back to the late 1970s.
The “truisms” contained in LED signs, benches and plaques scattered throughout the gallery at L&M Arts, as well as in a trio of Gobo light projections that appear on the exterior walls after dusk, will come as a surprise to almost no one, so central have they become to the story of American art over the last quarter-century.
It is useful to be reminded, however, of how potent the work remains. Flickering inscrutably in the conceptual space between activism, poetry, parody and cliché, Holzer’s wordplay — “Abuse of power comes as no surprise”; “The beginning of the war will be secret” — rarely hits a stale note. Viewed in a room with multiple LED screens rolling, glaring and flashing at once, the effect is jarringly visceral, which may indeed come as a surprise to those accustomed to seeing Holzer’s work in books or at a distance.
In the dozen or so large-scale paintings and drawings that constitute Holzer’s recent works, she draws her language — or conspicuous lack thereof — from an outside source: declassified U.S. government documents.