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A horizontal electric LED sign with three color diodes for different colors of text.

The sign streams words in English and Italian are drawn from two earlier series by Holzer in the form of advertising slogans. The text includes scorn sweetness, scorn exaltation, limit time, vomit the merry.

Gallery Text

When she was selected to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale of 1990, Jenny Holzer was the first American woman to be so honored. Her installation in the American Pavilion comprised five rooms housing marble floor tiles, benches, and LED signs, all bearing the pithy phrases about sex, death, and war that had already become easily identifiable as Holzer’s work. The words that scroll across the sign on display here, in English and Italian, are drawn from two earlier series by Holzer, Truisms (1977–79) and Inflammatory Essays (1979–82), which she deployed on cheaply printed placards and stickers that she posted on walls and bus stops around New York, as well as on t-shirts and other ephemera. Based on the success of those works, Holzer moved on to billboards and LED panels such as this one. A pioneer among postmodernist artists, she uses tools borrowed from advertising—the ubiquitous American form of communication—to deliver messages that challenge our most basic assumptions about contemporary culture.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Jenny Holzer, American (Gallipolis, Ohio born 1950)
Untitled (C-4)
Work Type
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Horizontal electronic LED sign (three color diodes)
24.1 x 447 x 11.4 cm (9 1/2 x 176 x 4 1/2 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Jenny Holzer, created 1990, sold; through [Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York] to; Ignace Van Den Abeele, Belgium. Florizoone, Belgium. [Cheim & Read, New York], sold; to Arnold and Mildred Glimcher, New York, gift; to the Harvard Art Museums, 2014.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of the Glimcher Family Collection in Memory of Dr. Melvin J. Glimcher
© Jenny Holzer / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art

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Publication History

  • Cate McQuaid, Contemporary art in the foreground at Harvard Art Museums, The Boston Globe (Boston, MA, November 1, 2014)

Exhibition History

  • Larger Than Life: Women Artists Making It Big, Susquehanna Art Museum, 06/02/2003 - 08/31/2003
  • Logical Conclusions: 40 Years of Rule-Based Art, Pace Wildenstein (25th St.), New York, 02/18/2005 - 03/26/2005
  • 32Q: 1010 Prescott Street Entrance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 06/16/2021

Verification Level

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