Kenyon College

The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff


Jenny Holzer (b. 1950)


The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (white). 2005. 

Oil on linen.

4 panels, each 33 x 25 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches.

Collection John Cheim, Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York.




The intersection of text and art is familiar territory for Jenny Holzer, who is best known for her elaborate LED installations replete with enigmatic writings. Here, Holzer explores textual ephemera. Drawing on Andy Warhol’s Death and Disaster pictures—a silkscreened series of grisly photographs and newspaper clippings—Holzer makes use of declassified documents from the National Security Archive. The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (white) magnifies the sheer amount of information—nearly an entire document—hidden behind a pockmark of declassifying ink. It’s anyone’s guess what distinguishes classified and declassified. But this work also highlights the human element of censorship. By dramatically enlarging the document, Holzer draws the viewer’s attention to the hasty pen marks and marginalia. At this intersection of text and art, she finds a roadblock.


Ohio native Jenny Holzer holds an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and honorary doctorates from Ohio University, the Rhode Island School of Design and The New School.


Caleb Bissinger ’13

Gund Gallery Associate