Laments: I am a man . . ., by Jenny Holzer, 1987

Jenny Holzer, Artist
Laments: I am a man . . . , 1987

Electronic LED sign with red and yellow diodes
112 1/2 x 10 x 4 1/2 in. (285.8 x 25.4 x 11.4 cm)
Credit Line
The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica. Installation view at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; photography by Brian Forrest

The LED sign is perhaps Jenny Holzer's best-known form for displaying her texts, allowing her to smuggle her urgent and provocative words into unlikely sites such as Times Square. Adapted from commercial use and evocative of the information age's never-ending barrage of opinions, facts, and fictions, the LED employs small luminescent diodes to generate phrases that disappear as quickly as they appear, encouraging active engagement on the part of viewers. This work is from Holzer's Laments series, a set of texts often displayed on both LED signs and stone sarcophagi that revolves around themes of sorrow, pain, power, and destruction. Using the first person, the texts portray selfishness and even violence, but the starting phrase "I am a man" brings to mind the signs held by striking sanitation workers in Memphis in 1968, also the subject of a work by Glenn Ligon in this exhibition.