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Selections from Truisms

Accession Number
2006/1.151

Title
Selections from Truisms

Artist(s)
Jenny Holzer

Object Creation Date
1983

Medium & Support
electronic L.E.D. with red diodes

Dimensions
6 ½ in x 60 ⅝ in x 4 in (16.5 cm x 154 cm x 10.2 cm)

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by the W. Hawkins Ferry Fund and anonymous individual benefactors

Label copy
March 28 2009
Jenny Holzer is an installation and conceptual artist whose primary medium is words. She often uses language to draw attention to and undermine habits of thought that go unnoticed. Her Truisms are a constantly evolving collection of several hundred phrases, ideas, and asides—made up or appropriated from diverse sources—that includes such provocative one-liners as: “a little knowledge goes a long way;” “there is a fine line between information and propaganda;” “money creates taste;” and, “freedom is a luxury not a necessity.”
The Truisms have appeared in many forms. Their first incarnation as a public art project was in 1977–79, when Holzer anonymously posted inexpensive, commercially printed broadsheets on buildings, walls, and telephone booths in and around Manhattan. Her pithy, ironic, and acerbic aphorisms were meant to be provocative and elicit public debate. In subsequent years they appeared on posters, billboards, and, as here, LED (light emiting diode) displays and have been exhibited in prominent public places like Times Square, as well as museums and galleries. Just as the content of the Trusims often mimics advertising slogans, Holzer has borrowed from marketing practice and emblazoned them on coffee mugs, t-shirts, pencils, baseball caps, and golf balls.

Subject matter
Holzer's Truisms were adapted from readings as part of her Whitney Independent Study Program in New York City in the late 1970s; her first series of Truisms took the form of posters that she plastered across lower Manhattan; later utilitzing billboards and t-shirts for her textual art, Holzer adopted her best-known medium, the LED (light emiting diode) display in 1982. This work runs on a continuous 25-minute loop with over 170 truisums that range from trite to humorous and ironic while engaging viewers in a participatory exchange between ideas and perceptions.

Physical Description
LED display running time approximately 25 minutes with looping text of approximately 170 truisms in red text.

Primary Object Classification
Video

Collection Area
Modern and Contemporary

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
Conceptual
LEDs (electron tubes)
Text-based Art
aphorisms

8 Related Resources

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Wade in the Water (2019)
(Part of: Sight & Sound: A New Way to Experience UMMA's 'Collection Ensemble')

& Author Notes

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