Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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Image of Inflammatory Essays 11298



Jenny Holzer


Inflammatory Essays

Creation Date



20th century


10 in. x 10 in. (25.4 cm. x 25.4 cm.)

Object Type


Creation Place

North America, American

Medium and Support

offset lithograph on paper

Credit Line

Gift of David P. Becker, Class of 1970


This artwork may be under copyright. For further information, please consult the Museum’s Copyright Terms and Conditions.

Accession Number

Conceived in 1979, Inflammatory Essays convey dogma, extremism, and fanaticism. An homage to the creative and destructive capacity of the manifesto, the “essays” are in fact short and standardized: 100-word paragraphs of twenty lines each, printed in the same font on colorful paper. Holzer produced a pastiche of taboo-breaking texts (unrelated to her personal convictions) in response to a variety of topical and polarizing issues of the day. In 1982, she wheat-pasted them individually in public spaces around Manhattan, where they would confront unsuspecting pedestrians who, over time, would recognize in their standardized format a larger effort. Together, Inflammatory Essays stage an ambivalent relationship to hard-edged ideology, at once showing the danger and absurdity of fanaticism but also honoring the crucial role of ideological commitment in making change happen. Ellen Tani Assistant Curator, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

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