Under erasure: Jenny Holzer's war paintings


Bird, J. 2017. Under erasure: Jenny Holzer's war paintings. Journal of Contemporary Painting. 3 (1-2), pp. 177-193. https://doi.org/10.1386/jcp.3.1-2.177_1
TitleUnder erasure: Jenny Holzer's war paintings
AuthorsBird, J.

This article examines Jenny Holzer’s painterly reworkings of redacted American military documents, comparing her practice with some of Nancy Spero’s extended visual narratives of torture and victimization. As two artists immersed in a feminist visual politics (and poetics) of representation where language is both a vehicle and a form of expression, they adopt contrasting strategies of transformation: for Spero via allegory and the mythic, for Holzer through an aesthetic of negation. I read their work partly through Jacques Rancière’s notion of the necessity for bringing traumatic events into visibility, and I argue that in their respective scripto-visual artworks and sensitivity to the materiality of language and its performative dimension, they ‘make the inhuman perceptible’. I also consider their practice as evidence of an ongoing project of foregrounding arts responsibility as witness to history and the historical subject, seeing in their respective modes of figuration and emphasis upon surface (presence/absence, colour, writing) a means of inscribing the body in the text.

JournalJournal of Contemporary Painting
Publication dates
Print01 Apr 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited04 Sep 2019
Accepted01 Jan 2017
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
Copyright Statement

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Intellect in the Journal of Contemporary Painting, available online: https://doi.org/10.1386/jcp.3.1-2.177_1

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1386/jcp.3.1-2.177_1
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