University of Chicago to honor pioneering artist Jenny Holzer during Convocation

Artist receives Jesse L. Rosenberger Medal for ambitious text-based work

The University of Chicago will award the 2019 Jesse L. Rosenberger Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Creative and Performing Arts to artist Jenny Holzer, “whose unique text-based work is ambitious, relevant and influential.”

Holzer will receive her award at the University’s Convocation ceremonies on June 15. She is the 54th recipient of the Rosenberger Medal, established in 1917 by Jesse L. and Susan Colver Rosenberger. Recent winners include musician and educator Steve Coleman and artist Kerry James Marshall.

A pioneer in using public art as social intervention, Holzer is perhaps best known for her Truisms—aphorisms such as “Abuse of power comes as no surprise” and “Protect me from what I want” featuring posters, billboards, LED signs, light projections and more.

For 40 years, the New York-based Holzer has presented her works in public places and international exhibitions, including 7 World Trade Center, the U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. She was the first woman artist to exhibit at Blenheim Palace.

Prior to receiving her BFA from Ohio University and her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, Holzer studied painting, printmaking and drawing at the University of Chicago in the 1970s. She was nominated for the Rosenberger Medal by faculty members in the Department of Visual Arts and the Department of Art History with the support of the Smart Museum of Art.

In 2012, Holzer collaborated with Zachary Cahill, director of programs and fellowships at the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, on the large-scale exhibition Wall Text, which was hosted throughout the spaces of UChicago’s Logan Center for the Arts. That sort of display, Cahill said, created “a special relationship with the student, the wider art viewing audience and all of us who work in the building every day.”