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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Inflammatory Essays

Photo: Elizabeth Mann

Inflammatory Essays


Jenny Holzer

American, born 1950

Jenny Holzer's "Inflammatory Essays," which number twenty-six in all, were inspired by several authors Holzer had read: Emma Goldman, Hitler, Lenin, Mao, and Trotsky. As in her previous works that use words as their medium, Holzer created these essays to be hung throughout the city streets, confronting people in the public sphere. In 1984, SAM's Contemporary Art Council sponsored the installation of the posters along a construction wall at Second Avenue and Pike Street in downtown Seattle.

Holzer's texts adopt different tones and alternate between first- and third-person voices. The essays all have an anti-power message, whether stated directly or suggested through the ironic use of a tyrannical voice.
Offset posters on paper
17 x 16 3/4 in. (43.2 x 42.6 cm), image and sheet size
Gift of the Contemporary Art Council of the Seattle Art Museum
Provenance: Purchased by Seattle Art Museum (Contemporary Art Council), May 1984 (upgraded from study collection to Category I, March 2012)
Photo: Elizabeth Mann
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Art of Protest, Apr. 27, 2000-Jan. 21, 2001

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Elles: SAM - Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists, Oct. 6, 2012-Feb.17, 2013

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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