guardian.co.uk, Monday 4 June 2012 18.36 BST
Jenny Holzer's stark, often shocking slogans have graced T-shirts, posters, LEDs and even condoms. As a show of her early work opens, the US artist tells Stuart Jeffries why she's drawn to dreadful things
One day, Jenny Holzer saw a picture. It showed a woman with her legs spread, lying in a forest after being raped and murdered. The drawing, by the unflinching German artist Käthe Kollwitz, provoked Holzer to write some text in the voice of an imagined adviser to the attacker. "Crack the pelvis so she lies right. This is a mistake. When she dies you cannot repeat the act. The bones will not grow together again and the personality will not come back."