Barbara Kruger at ACCA, Melbourne
January 26, 1945|
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
Parsons School of Design, New York
|Known for||Visual Art|
|Notable work||I shop therefore I am (1987) and Your body is a battleground (1985)|
Barbara Kruger (born January 26, 1945) is an American conceptual artist and collagist. Most of her work consists of black-and-white photographs, overlaid with declarative captions, stated in white-on-red Futura Bold Oblique or Helvetica Ultra Condensed text. The phrases in her works often include pronouns such as "you", "your", "I", "we", and "they", addressing cultural constructions of power, identity, and sexuality. Kruger currently lives and works in New York and Los Angeles.
Early life and career
Kruger was born an only child into a lower-middle-class family in Newark, New Jersey. Her father worked as a chemical technician for Shell Oil and her mother was a legal secretary. She graduated from Weequahic High School. She attended Syracuse University, but left after one year due to the death of her father. After spending a year at Syracuse University, in 1965, she went on to pursue a semester at Parson's school of Design in New York. Over the next ten years, Kruger established herself whilst pursuing graphic design for magazines, freelance picture editing, as well as designing book jackets. By the later 1960s, Kruger gained interest in poetry, and began attending poetry readings and writings. Kruger studied art and design with Diane Arbus and Marvin Israel at Parsons School of Design in New York. Kruger soon obtained a design job at Condé Nast Publications. There after, Kruger was awarded the head designer for that following year. She initially worked as a designer at Mademoiselle and later moved on to work part-time as a picture editor at House and Garden, Aperture, and other publications. She also wrote film, television, and music columns for Artforum and Real Life Magazine at the suggestion of her friend Ingrid Sischy.
Kruger's earliest works date back to 1969. These works were large wall hangings made out of different materials such as yarn, beads, sequins, feathers and ribbons. These pieces represented the feminist recuperation of craft during this period. Kruger crocheted, sewed and painted bright-hued and erotically suggestive objects, some of which were included by curator Marcia Tucker in the 1973 Whitney Biennial. They were inspired by Magdalena Abakanowicz’s show at the Museum of Modern Art. Although some of these works were included in the Whitney Biennial, Kruger became detached and unsatisfied with her working output. In 1976 she took a break from making what had become more abstract works, feeling that her work had become meaningless and mindless. She then moved to Berkeley, California where she taught at the University of California and became inspired by the writings of Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes. In 1977 she returned to artmaking, working with her own architectural photographs and publishing an artist's book, Picture/Readings, in 1979. She was inspired to photograph architecture from her family "looking at family homes [they] could never afford."
At the beginning of her art career, she was intimidated to enter New York galleries due to the art scene which was an atmosphere that, to her, did not welcome “particularly independent, non-masochistic women.” However, she received early support for her projects from groups such as the Public Art Fund that encouraged her to continue art making. She switched to her modern practice of collage in the early 80's.
Addressing issues of language and sign, Kruger has often been grouped with such feminist postmodern artists as Jenny Holzer, Sherrie Levine, Martha Rosler, and Cindy Sherman. Like Holzer and Sherman, in particular, she uses the techniques of mass communication and advertising to explore gender and identity. Kruger is considered to be part of the Pictures Generation.
Imagery and text
Much of Kruger's work pairs found photographs with pithy and assertive text that challenges the viewer. Her method includes developing her ideas on a computer, later transferring the results (often billboard-sized) into images. Examples of her instantly recognizable slogans read “I shop therefore I am,” and “Your body is a battleground," appearing in her trademark white letters against a red background. Much of her text calls attention to ideas such as feminism, consumerism, and individual autonomy and desire, frequently appropriating images from mainstream magazines and using her bold phrases to frame them in a new context.
Kruger has said that "I work with pictures and words because they have the ability to determine who we are and who we aren’t." A larger category that threads through her work is the appropriation and alteration of existing images. In describing her use of appropriation, Kruger states:
Pictures and words seem to become the rallying points for certain assumptions. There are assumptions of truth and falsity and I guess the narratives of falsity are called fictions. I replicate certain words and watch them stray from or coincide with the notions of fact and fiction.
Her poster for the 1989 Women's March on Washington in support of legal abortion included a woman's face bisected into positive and negative photographic reproductions, accompanied by the text "Your body is a battleground." A year later, Kruger used this slogan in a billboard commissioned by the Wexner Center for the Arts. Twelve hours later, a group opposed to abortion responded to Kruger's work by replacing the adjacent billboard with an image depicting an eight-week-old fetus.
Kruger's early monochrome pre-digital works, known as ‘paste ups’, reveal the influence of the artist’s experience as a magazine editorial designer during her early career. These small scale works, the largest of which is 11 x 13 inches (28 x 33 cm), are composed of altered found images, and texts either culled from the media or invented by the artist. A negative of each work was then produced and used to make enlarged versions of these initial ‘paste ups’. Between 1978 and 1979, she completed "Picture/Readings," simple photographs of modest houses alternating with panels of words. From 1992 on, Kruger designed several magazine covers, such as Ms., Esquire, Newsweek, and The New Republic. Her signature font style of Futura Bold type is likely inspired from the “Big Idea” or “Creative Revolution” advertising style of the 1960s that she was exposed to during her experience at Mademoiselle.
In 1990, Kruger scandalized the Japanese American community of Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, with her proposal to paint the Pledge of Allegiance, bordered by provocative questions, on the side of a warehouse in the heart of the historic downtown neighborhood. Kruger had been commissioned by MOCA to paint a mural for "A Forest of Signs: Art in the Crisis of Representation," a 1989 exhibition that also included works by Barbara Bloom, Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons, Sherrie Levine, and Richard Prince. But before the mural went up, Kruger herself and curator Ann Goldstein presented it at various community meetings over the time period of 18 months. Only after protests did the artist offer to eliminate the pledge from her mural proposal, while still retaining a series of questions painted in the colors and format of the American flag: "Who is bought and sold? Who is beyond the law? Who is free to choose? Who follows orders? Who salutes longest? Who prays loudest? Who dies first? Who laughs last?". A full year after the exhibition closed, Kruger's reconfigured mural finally went up for a two-year run.
In 1994, Kruger's L'empathie peut changer le monde (Empathy can change the world) was installed on a train station platform in Strasbourg, France. One year later, with architects Henry Smith-Miller and Laurie Hawkinson and landscape architect Nicholas Quennell, she designed the 200-foot-long (60 m) sculptural letters Picture This for a stage and outdoor amphitheater at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh. Between 1998 and 2008, she created permanent installations for the Fisher College of Business, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA, the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and the Price Center at the University of California, San Diego. For a site-specific piece that she produced at the Parrish Art Museum in 1998, Kruger placed across the upper range of the museum's Romanesque facade stark red letters that read, "You belong here"; below, on columns separating three arched entry portals, stacked letters spelled "Money" and "Taste." As part of the Venice Biennale in 2005, Kruger installed a digitally printed vinyl mural across the entire facade of the Italian pavilion, thereby dividing it into three parts—green at the left, red at the right, white in between. In English and Italian, the words "money" and "power" climbed the portico's columns; the left wall said, "Pretend things are going as planned," while "God is on my side; he told me so" fills the right. In 2012, her installation Belief+Doubt, which covers 6,700 square feet (620 m²) of surface area and was printed onto wallpaper-like sheets in the artist's signature colors of red, black and white, was installed at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
Since the mid-1990s, Kruger has created large-scale immersive video and audio installations. Enveloping the viewer with the seductions of direct address, the work continues her questioning of power, control, affection and contempt: still images now move and speak and spatialize their commentary. In 1997, Kruger produced a series of fiberglass sculptures of compromised celebrities, including John F. and Robert Kennedy hoisting Marilyn Monroe on their shoulders. For a concurrent show that same year in New York, she had city buses wrapped with quotations from figures such as Malcolm X, Courtney Love, and H.L. Mencken. For her first retrospective, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, she created 15 billboards and countless wild postings, executed and installed in both English and Spanish. For a public awareness campaign to promote arts instruction in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Kruger covered a bus with phrases like “Give your brain as much attention as you do your hair and you’ll be a thousand times better off”; “from here to there”; “Don’t be a jerk”; and “You want it. You buy it. You forget it.” In 2016, Kruger created a work protesting the election of Donald Trump for the cover of New York Magazine and participated in a January 20, 2017 inauguration boycott.
Kruger has taught at the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum; California Institute of the Arts, Valencia; University of California, Berkeley; Chicago; and UCSD for five years before joining the faculty at the University of California at Los Angeles. In 1995–96, she was artist in residence at the Wexner Center for the Arts, where she created Public Service Announcements addressing issues of domestic violence. In 2000, she was the Wiegand Foundation Artist in Residence at Scripps College, Claremont. She has written about television, film and culture for Artforum, Esquire, The New York Times, and The Village Voice.
Connections with other artists
Kruger was involved with a group of artists from her graduating classes from CalArts in the 1970s, including Ross Bleckner and David Salle, listing them as her “first peer group.” She considered Diane Arbus to be her “first female role model…[that] didn’t wash the floor six times a day.” She also was connected with Julian Schnabel, Marilyn Lerner, Sherrie Levine, Cindy Sherman, Jim Welling, Nancy Dwyer, Louise Lawler, Sarah Charlesworth, Laurie Simmons, Carol Squiers, Judith Barry, Jenny Holzer, Richard Prince, Becky Johnston, and Lynne Tillman. She was also involved in a group called Artists Meeting for Cultural Change.
In 1979, Barbara Kruger exhibited her first works combining appropriated photographs and fragments of superimposed text at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, in Long Island City, Queens. Her first institutional show was staged in London, when Iwona Blazwick decided to exhibit her work at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1983. In 1999, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles mounted the first retrospective exhibition to provide a comprehensive overview of Kruger's career since 1978, which travelled to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in 2000. Kruger has since been the subject of many one-person exhibitions, including shows organized by the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (1983); the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal (1985); Serpentine Gallery in London (1994); Palazzo delle Papesse Centro Arte Contemporanea in Siena (2002); Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (2005); and Moderna Museet in Stockholm (2008). In 2009, Kruger was included in the seminal show "The Pictures Generation, 1974–1984" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kruger has also participated in the Whitney Biennial (1983, 1985, and 1987) and Documenta 7 and 8 (1982 and 1987). She represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1982 and again participated in 2005, when she received the Leone d'Oro for lifetime achievement.
In 2007, Kruger was one of the many artists to be a part of South Korea's Incheon Women Artists' Biennale in Seoul. This marked South Korea's first women's biennial. That same year, she designed "Consider This...", an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In September 2009, Kruger’s Between Being Born and Dying, a major installation commissioned by the Lever House Art Collection, opened at the New York City architectural landmark Lever House. In 2012, as a member of the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), Kruger volunteered to be the lead funder of the museum's scholarly exhibit Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974 and to create a new work on vinyl to sell with proceeds going entirely toward the show's $1 million budget. An exhibition of new and recent work from Barbara Kruger was hosted by Modern Art Oxford in 2014.
Kruger's words and pictures have been displayed in both galleries and public spaces, as well as framed and unframed photographs, posters, postcards, T-shirts, electronic signboards, façade banners, and billboards.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles awarded Kruger the MOCA Award to Distinguished Women in the Arts in 2001. In 2005, she was included in The Experience of Art at the Venice Biennale and was the recipient of the Leone d'Oro for lifetime achievement. At the 10th anniversary Gala in the Garden at the Hammer Museum in 2012, Kruger was honored by TV presenter Rachel Maddow. In 2012, Kruger joined John Baldessari and Catherine Opie in leaving the Museum of Contemporary Art's board in protest, but later returned in support of the museum's new director, Philippe Vergne, in 2014.
Kruger's first dealer was Gagosian Gallery, with which she did two shows in Los Angeles in the early 1980s. In 1986, she was the first woman to join the prominent contemporary art gallery of Mary Boone and has had nine solo shows there since. Kruger is also represented by Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago; and Sprüth Magers Berlin London and L&M Arts in Los Angeles. In late 2011, her 1985 photo of a ventriloquist's dummy, Untitled (When I Hear the Word Culture I Take Out My Checkbook), was sold at Christie's for a record $902,500.
Supreme, a skateboard and apparel brand established in 1994, have been accused of taking their logo, the white word “Supreme” on a red box, from Kruger’s signature style. James Jebbia, founder of Supreme, has admitted that the logo was taken from Barbara Kruger’s work. Barbara herself had not commented on this issue until a recent lawsuit between Supreme and Leah McSweeney, founder of Married to the Mob (MTTM), a women’s street clothing brand. MTTM used the Supreme logo to make a “Supreme Bitch” logo that was printed on T-shirts and hats. In response, Kruger said, “What a ridiculous clusterfuck of totally uncool jokers. I make my work about this kind of sadly foolish farce. I’m waiting for all of them to sue me for copyright infringement.” Eventually the lawsuits were dropped on agreement that McSweeney could continue to use the words “Supreme Bitch” if it was "not in the way Barbara Kruger does."
- My Pretty Pony (1998), text by Stephen King, illustrations by Barbara Kruger, Library Fellows of the Whitney Museum of American Art
- Barbara Kruger: 7 January to 28 January 1989 by Barbara Kruger, Mary Boone Gallery, 1989
- Barbara Kruger: 5 January to 26 January 1991 by Barbara Kruger, 1991
- Remote Control: Power, Cultures, and the World of Appearances by Barbara Kruger, 1994
- Love for Sale by Kate Linker, 1996
- Remaking History (Discussions in Contemporary Culture, No 4) by Barbara Kruger, 1998
- Thinking of You, 1999 (The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles)
- Barbara Kruger by Angela Vettese, 2002
- Money Talks by Barbara Kruger and Lisa Phillips, 2005
- Barbara Kruger by Barbara Kruger, Rizzoli 2010
Film and video
- "The Globe Shrinks". 2010
- "Pleasure, Pain, Desire, Disgust". 1997
- "Twelve". 2004
- Bulls on Parade video clip, Rage Against The Machine (1996)
- "Art in the Twenty-First Century". 2001
- "Cinefile: Reel Women". 1995
- "Picturing Barbara Kruger". 2015
- You Are Not Yourself, 1981 work by Kruger
- Feminist art movement in the United States
- Shepard Fairey
- Emi Fontana
- Jenny Holzer
- Martin Firrell
- Louise Lawler
- Cindy Sherman
- Joel Wachs, Los Angeles City Council member who helped Kruger get permission for an outdoor art piece
- "Barbara Kruger, Ad Industry Heroine". Slate. July 19, 2000. Retrieved January 10, 2017.
- "Barbara Kruger" PBS, Retrieved 14 April 2014.
- Kruger, Barbara (2000). Thinking of You. Cumberland, Rhode Island, U.s.a.: Cumberland, Rhode Island, U.S.A.: Mit Pr. pp. 27, 29–31, 112. ISBN 0262112507.
- , Hyman, Paula E., Moore, Beborah Dash. 1998. Jewish Women in America. An Historical Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Routledge. Sponsored by The American Jewish Historical Society. ISBN 0-415-91934-7. (from page 764)
- , Dashkin, Michael. „Barbara Kruger, b. 1945.“ Jewish Women’s Archive. Jewish Women a Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia [online] [cite 3. 3. 2013].
- Hunter Drohojowska-Philp (October 17, 1999), She Has a Way With Words Los Angeles Times.
- Witzling, Mara Rose. "+weequahic Voicing today's visions:writings by contemporary women artists, p. 265. Universe, 1994. ISBN 0-87663-640-7. Accessed March 5, 2012. "Barbara Kruger B. 1945... "
- "Barbara Kruger, American (1945- )". Rhode Island Gallery. 2017-03-17.
- "Biography - Barbara Kruger - Photograph Collage, Advertising, Slogans, Art". Barbara Kruger. Retrieved 2014-07-30.
- "Barbara Kruger, American (1945- )". Rhode Island Gallery. 2017-03-17.
- Barbara Kruger, Untitled (When I hear the word culture I take out my checkbook) (1985) Christie's Evening Sale of Works from the Peter Norton Collection, 8 November 2011, New York.
- Bollen, Christopher (February 28, 2013). "Barbara Kruger". Interview Magazine. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
- Read My Lips: Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, June 6 - August 9, 1998 National Gallery of Australia.
- Douglas Eklund, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: The Pictures Generation Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
- Barbara Kruger: Circus, December 15, 2010 - January 30, 2011 Archived December 24, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. Kunsthalle Schirn, Frankfurt.
- Kruger, Barbara & Richard Prince. "Interview with Barbara Kruger and Richard Prince", BOMB Magazine, Spring, 1982
- "Barbara Kruger - Page". Interview Magazine. Retrieved 2014-07-30.
- Barbara Kruger: Paste Up, November 21, 2009 - January 23, 2010, Sprüth Magers Gallery, London.
- Charles Hagen (June 14, 1992), Barbara Kruger: Cover Girl The New York Times.
- Christopher Knight (December 14, 2010), MOCA's mural mess Los Angeles Times.
- Barbara Kruger: Another, 2008 University of California, San Diego.
- Ken Johnson (August 6, 2004), The Hamptons, A Playground For Creativity The New York Times.
- Christopher Knight (June 21, 2005), Fueled by politics Los Angeles Times.
- Kelly Crow (August 2, 2012), An Artist Has Her Say—All Over a Museum's Lobby and Store The Wall Street Journal.
- Barbara Kruger: The Globe Shrinks, September, 3 - October 23, 2010, Sprüth Magers Gallery, Berlin.
- Howard Blume (October 8, 2012), Campaign launched to promote arts education in L.A. Unified Los Angeles Times.
- "Trump the Loser, according to Kruger". The Art Newspaper. 31 October 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
- "Don't boycott, make protest art!". trumpprotestart.org. 13 January 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
- Wexner Center Residency Awards Archived May 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Wexner Center for the Arts.
- Barbara Kruger to be Wiegand Foundation Artist in Residence at Scripps Archived July 1, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Scripps College, Claremont.
- Caroline Roux (May 9, 2011), Barbara Kruger: Slogans that shake society The Independent.
- Barbara Kruger, October 17, 1999 - February 13, 2000 Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
- South Korea Kicks off First Women's Biennial, ARTINFO, November 6, 2007, retrieved 2008-04-16
- Consider This..., April 9, 2006–January 15, 2007 LACMA
- Mike Boehm (March 28, 2012), MOCA bets on festival's star power Los Angeles Times.
- "Barbara Kruger" Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Retrieved 14 April 2014.
- Julie Miller (October 7, 2012), Steve Martin and Rachel Maddow Toast World-Renowned Artists at the Hammer Museum; Katy Perry Toasts Nail Art Vanity Fair.
- Mike Boehm and Deborah Vankin (March 19, 2014), Artists return to MOCA board Los Angeles Times.
- Dorothy Spears (August 24, 2010), Resurgent Agitprop in Capital Letters The New York Times.
- Deleon, Jian (May 1, 2013). "Supreme™ Court: The 12 Greatest Moments of Supreme's Legal Battle With Leah McSweeney". Complex. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
- Kamer, Foster (May 2, 2013). "Barbara Kruger Responds to Supreme's Lawsuit: 'A Ridiculous Clusterf**k of Totally Uncool Jokers'". Complex. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
- Kamer, Foster (July 1, 2013). "The Battle of Supreme™ vs. Married to the Mob is Over, and This Is Why". Complex. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
- "Picturing Barbara Kruger directed by Pippa Bianco". Vimeo. Retrieved 2016-02-27.
- Work titled "Pleanty" for the art initiative West of Rome in the 2008 project "Women in the City" Curated by West of Rome's creative director Emi Fontana.http://www.womeninthecity.org/
- Heyd, Milly. 1999. Mutual Reflections: Jews and Blacks in American Art. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-2618-3.
- Hyman, Paula E., Moore, Beborah Dash. 1998. Jewish Women in America. An Historical Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Routledge. Sponsored by The American Jewish Historical Society. ISBN 0-415-91934-7.
- Janson, H.W., Janson, Anthony F. History of Art. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers. 6 edition. January 1, 2005. ISBN 0-13-182895-9
- Kruger, Barbara. 1982. „“Taking“ Pictures.“ Screen 23 (2): 90-96.
- Linker, Kate. Love For Sale: Words and Pictures of Barbara Kruger. New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1996.
- Femme brut(e), [exhibition catalogue] New London: Lyman Allyn Art Museum, 2006.
- “Barbara Kruger” ACCA Education Kit. Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. http://www.accaonline.org.au/Assets/12/1/BarbaraKrugeredkit-1.pdf
- Rankin, Aimee. 1987. „“Difference“ and Deference.“ Screen 11 (2): 91-101.
- Biography, interviews, essays, artwork images and video clips from PBS series Art:21 -- Art in the Twenty-First Century - Season 1 (2001).
- Barbara Kruger at the Museum of Modern Art
- Kruger collection at the Broad Art Foundation
- Venice Biennale Awards Kruger
- Current exhibitions and connection to galeries at Artfacts.Net
- BOMB Magazine Interview with Barbara Kruger and Richard Prince (Spring, 1982)
- Barbara Kruger, Art History Archive
- Interview Magazine Interview with Barbara Kruger (February 2013)
- Barbara Kruger Photoshop Tutorial
- Smithsonian Magazine Interview with Barbara Kruger (July 2012)