The Korea Herald


Jenny Holzer returns as painter with new watercolor series in Korea

By Park Yuna

Published : Dec. 16, 2020 - 17:34

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 Installation view of “IT’S CRUCIAL TO HAVE AN ACTIVE FANTASY LIFE” (Kukje Gallery)  Installation view of “IT’S CRUCIAL TO HAVE AN ACTIVE FANTASY LIFE” (Kukje Gallery)

American conceptual artist Jenny Holzer is widely known for her large-scale flashing LED signs that display the artist’s ideas, arguments and sorrows in public spaces.

“A great function of the signs is their capacity to move, which I love because it’s so much like the spoken word. You can emphasize, you can roll and pause, which is the kinetic equivalent to inflection in the voice,” the artist once said, according to Kukje Gallery in Seoul.

Kukje Gallery, the major commercial gallery in Korea, is showcasing the exhibition “It’s Crucial to Have an Active Fantasy Life,” nine years after it held Holzer’s solo exhibition in 2011. Spanning from the artist’s LED signs that she has been using since the early 1980s to the latest watercolor series, the exhibition takes place at the gallery’s K2 and K3 halls.

“Truisms (2020),” the artist’s new artwork on display at K3 hall, is a four-sided LED work that is more than three meters long. Suspended from a robotic system installed in the ceiling, the long vertical electronic sign shows a series of playful -- and sometimes aggressive -- statements in Korean and English. Among the aphorisms are “The most profound things are inexpressible” in Korean. 

“False and Misleading Statements” by Jenny Holzer (Kukje Gallery) “False and Misleading Statements” by Jenny Holzer (Kukje Gallery)

The exhibition features Holzer’s “Redaction Paintings” series that the artist recreated the US government’s formerly classified documents released by the Freedom of Information Act into paintings. The military papers, which are ironically already redacted, are used as abstract paintings; the parts deleted in black in the original documents are covered with gold or platinum leaf by the artist. 

The artist – who is also an activist and does not hesitate to express social and political issues through her works – unveiled the latest watercolor series for the first time in Korea, which is painted based on the US government’s “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election,” also known as Muller report. 

Installation view of “IT’S CRUCIAL TO HAVE AN ACTIVE FANTASY LIFE” (Kukje Gallery) Installation view of “IT’S CRUCIAL TO HAVE AN ACTIVE FANTASY LIFE” (Kukje Gallery)

The watercolor series, which consists of 36 paintings that appear bold and eidetic, show the artist’s frustration and anger toward the current US government. “The Muller report was frustrating in many significant ways so I decided to paint on it while I waited for a result,” the artist said in a video record released by the gallery ahead of the exhibition. 

The artist offers a chance to audiences to interpret the works in their own ways as well. “I prefer to have works speak for me. I think that is more professional and more effective,” Holzer said. The exhibition runs through Jan. 31.

By Park Yuna (