Chicago

Jenny Holzer

Rhona Hoffman Gallery

One of the key terms from the ’60s has a renewed significance in the art world of the ’80s. The term is “co-optation,” the ability of mainstream, capitalist culture to appropriate any idea, no matter how avant-garde or radical, for its own pleasure and profit. When Jenny Holzer pasted on building walls or hung in bank windows the dictionary of clichés she called “Truisms,” she turned the tables on the co-opters. Holzer’s unique form of corporate raiding peaked with her appropriation of a whole new mass medium, electronic signs, on which she has displayed her word art from Times Square to the Las Vegas strip. Lately, she has begun anonymously buying TV spots in targeted markets around the country.

But for her, as for other street artists like Keith Flaring, recognition has brought with it access to the galleries, an elitist world in which their populist work occupies a somewhat uneasy place.

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