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12 double-sided, curved LED signs (lower two signs with two elements each): white diodes on front; red & blue diodes
104 1/4 x 57 3/4 in. (264.8 x 146.69 cm)

About This Artwork

In the 1980s, Jenny Holzer began using LED signs in her artwork, engaging a form usually associated with entertainment and advertising as a medium for her challenging texts. In Thorax, the arched LEDs become sculptural elements. Looming over eight feet tall and situated in a corner, the work resembles a ribcage, curving LEDs part at the bottom like the bones below the sternum. Simultaneously, the work looks like a holding cell, a place to jail or perhaps even torture. Though a human figure is not depicted, Holzer’s sculpture implies an enduring body. The scrolling text contains declassified U.S. government documents from 2004 about the Iraq War, including accounts of physical brutality, further locating the body as a scene of savagery. As a ribcage, Thorax stands to encase and protect, while as a jail cell, it acts to trap and punish. In both cases, Holzer’s work literally sheds light on the real and potential violence authorized in war.