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Art HERstory: Barbara Kruger

(I love the image above! I do that in my head when people are punks to me…)

Ok, I cannot go another week without posting something about Barbara Kruger! Whether you know her name or not, her work is inescapable. Her juxtaposition of word and image are highly recognized and always thought provoking.

I have to give my liberal high school props for having Ms. Kruger’s book, Remote Control: Power, Cultures, and the World of Appearances, in the library. I checked that book out a good 8 times from sophomore to senior year because the images intrigued me so much. Her work definitely impacted and steered me into the direction of graphic design. Read on…

Above is a more familiar piece by Ms. Kruger from 1987. It’s untitled, as many of her pieces are, but also known as, ‘I shop therefore I am.’ She works mainly with photographic silkscreen and vinyl.

A little background on the artist: Barbara Kruger was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1945. After attending Syracuse University, the School of Visual Arts, and studying art and design with Diane Arbus at Parson’s School of Design in New York, Kruger obtained a design job at Condé Nast Publications.

Working for Mademoiselle Magazine, she was quickly promoted to head designer. Later, she worked as a graphic designer, art director, and picture editor in the art departments at House and Garden, Aperture, and other publications.

This background in design is evident in the work for which she is now internationally renowned. She layers found photographs from existing sources with pithy and aggressive text that involves the viewer in the struggle for power and control that her captions speak to.

In their trademark black letters against a slash of red background, some of her instantly recognizable slogans read “I shop therefore I am,? and “Your body is a battleground.” Much of her text questions the viewer about feminism, classicism, consumerism, and individual autonomy and desire, although her black-and-white images are culled from the mainstream magazines that sell the very ideas she is disputing.

As well as appearing in museums and galleries worldwide, Kruger’s work has appeared on billboards, bus-cards, posters, a public park, a train station platform in Strasbourg, France, and in other public commissions. She has taught at the California Institute of Art, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the University of California, Berkeley. She lives in New York and Los Angeles.

The above image, one of my favorites for its simplicity and openness to interpretation. It also reminds me of a past statement Ms. Kruger made:

I’m living my life, not buying a lifestyle.

Ok, I know you want to know more! Check the tribute site: BarbaraKruger.com or TalkLikeUs.com

Info & Images: BarbaraKruger.com

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