Jenny Holzer
    Alexandra Drexelius, Leigh Fagin, Christine Mehring, and Jill Sterrett
    University of Chicago
    Oct 05, 2020 to Nov 22, 2020
    University of Chicago

Jenny Holzer, "YOU BE MY ALLY," 2020. LED truck. Chicago, Illinois. Text: Sappho, fragment 1 from "If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho by Anne Carson," first published by Alfred A. Knopf, copyright 2002 by the author. Reprinted by permission of the author and Aragi Inc. All rights reserved. Copyright 2020 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY Photo: Christopher Dilts

Jenny Holzer, in collaboration with the University of Chicago, premiers work that introduces participation and augmented reality technology into her signature interplay between text, ideas, and the built environment. Drawing on excerpts sourced by students and faculty from canonical social, political, and literary texts in the University’s distinctive Core curriculum, Holzer’s writing-based work will appear on LED billboard trucks traveling the city of Chicago, as a nighttime projection on an iconic University building, and within a mobile augmented reality (AR) app that superimposes quotations on the facades of architecturally significant buildings on campus and, possibly, elsewhere in the world. In her previous work, Holzer has experimented with an AR app only once before—at Blenheim Palace, with a limited set of views, fixed text, and for only 12 days. And while the artist previously worked with gun violence testimony, she has never “crowd-sourced” her texts from a large number of participants.

For more than 40 years, Jenny Holzer has presented her astringent ideas, arguments, and sorrows in public places and international exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale, the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Her medium, whether formulated as a T-shirt, a plaque, or an LED sign, is writing, and the public dimension is integral to the delivery of her work. Starting in the 1970s with the New York City posters and continuing through her recent light projections on landscape and architecture, her practice has rivaled ignorance and violence with humor, kindness, and courage. Holzer received the Leone d’Oro at the Venice Biennale in 1990, the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award in 1996, the US State Department’s International Medal of Arts in 2017, and the University of Chicago’s Rosenberger Medal in 2019. She lives and works in New York.

Alexandra Drexelius is the executive assistant for leadership support at the Smart Museum of Art. She received her BA in art history from the University of Chicago in 2018, focusing on public art and shifting receptions of figurative sculpture in the twentieth century. As a student, she assisted programming around the campus collection such as Concrete Happenings and Dialogo: Virginio Ferrari and Chicago. Since graduating, Drexelius has supported the development and implementation of projects at the intersection of art, architecture, and design at the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and the Chicago Architecture Biennial. She has served as project manager for the Holzer commission since Spring 2020.

Leigh Fagin is senior director of programming and engagement at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, where she develops collaborative arts projects, often in partnership with colleagues and institutions across campus and the city at large. Over the last ten years, Fagin helped organize a wide range of multidisciplinary projects including the CineVardaExpo, the Envisioning China festival, What is an Artistic Practice of Human Rights? and the Logan Center Bluesfest. Fagin also leads the Logan: On Display program, presenting exhibitions including Chicago Jazz & Blues: A Photographer’s View; Spirit of Africa, and Memories Museum. Before coming to the Logan Center, Fagin worked at MASS MoCA, The Kitchen, Lucky Plush Productions, Young Audiences/NY, and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. She holds a master’s in art education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BA in art history from Wellesley College.

Christine Mehring is Mary L. Block Professor in the Department of Art History and the College at the University of Chicago and adjunct curator at the Smart Museum. Her interests include public art and relations between art, design, and architecture, as well as the intersections between old and new media. Mehring recently directed “Material Matters,” which included research, material investigation, conservation, and campus siting of Fluxus artist Wolf Vostell’s colossal public sculpture Concrete Traffic (1970), along with related exhibitions and programming. Working with two seminars on public sculpture, she spearheaded the University’s website on its campus art. Her essay on the relations between Donald Judd’s art and design is in the catalogue of the Museum of Modern Art’s ongoing retrospective of the artist. Mehring is completing an edited volume, with Lisa Zaher, concerning Vostell’s use of concrete, and a book, with architectural historian Sean Keller, on the art and architecture of the Munich Olympics.

The work of Jill Sterrett, interim director of the Smart Museum of Art, focuses on the role of museums in contemporary society and she works at the intersection of contemporary art practice, materials, conservation and collections. She is engaged in ways to revitalize museums for our times and has played an active role in the formation of Voices in Contemporary Art, an international consortium of conservators, curators, collectors, educators, and students who recognize the need for new forms of collaboration. Sterrett has held leadership roles at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago. She is now an independent arts advisor on national and international projects, including for Toward Common Cause: Art Social Practice and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40, a Smart Museum project opening in July 2021 across the city of Chicago.

Mark Hellar is a technology consultant for cultural institutions and the owner of Hellar Studios LLC. He specializes in innovative yet practical digital media and software-based solutions for multimedia artists and institutions that support their work, with an emphasis on developing systems for exhibition, documentation, and preservation. Hellar is currently working on new media conservation initiatives at SFMOMA, including the conservation and care of their software-based artworks. He is also the software developer for the studio of artist Lynn Hershman Leeson and faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute, teaching on the topics of virtual reality and augmented reality.

Holition is an award-winning creative innovation studio, creating bespoke experiences for pioneering brands. Part think tank part digital studio, Holition is a synthesis of retail experts, scientists, film-makers, artists, mathematicians, UX designers, technologists, and other curious minds, united by a digitally empathetic approach to consumer experiences. Holition’s well-versed portfolio includes augmented reality experiences for beauty brands like Charlotte Tilbury and Covergirl, holograms for fashion brands like Dunhill and jewelry giant Cartiér, projection mapping for BMW and Shiseido and data visualizations for Farfetch, Lyst and Grabble. Holition artistic and academic partners include renowned global artists such as Jenny Holzer, experimental fashion collective The Unseen, University of the Arts London, Politecnico de Milano, Parsons, and Brown University.

With a strong tradition of cross-disciplinary practices since its founding, the University of Chicago fosters a bustling arts community on Chicago’s South Side. Vibrant campus arts institutions and academic programs engage students, faculty, and scholars of all academic disciplines. Community arts engagement partners with artists and creative professionals in our surrounding neighborhoods. UChicago Arts engages on the forefront of local, national, and global arts and culture.