Barbara Kruger: A Way With Words

Barbara Kruger: A Way With Words

Barbara Kruger has changed the look of the world in art, advertising and graphic design. She has been less successful in changing the way the world works, especially with regard to gender injustice (women’s oppression in infinite diversity, men’s domination (ibid.)) And plagues such as war, consumerism and poverty. Hmm.

But that is certainly not due to the lack of attempt. Since the late 1980s, Kruger has incorporated her skills as an artist, feminist, writer and graphic designer into the most memorable and resonating public art of her time. Today, the intensity of her efforts can be seen on two immersive displays in Manhattan. You short myself.. I mean you This is an individual that wraps the vast Maron Family Atrium (floor and walls) of the Museum of Modern Art in New York in language and fills David Zwirner’s spacious 19th Avenue gallery, which began to represent the artist in 2019 in collaboration with Sprüth Magers. It is a battalion of works of.

Kruger is known for his ornate red-framed montage, which begins with a slightly archaic black-and-white photograph that gives off a well-behaved atmosphere of the 1950s. (They come from a large image bank from an archive that Kruger has collected from magazines, newspapers, and illustrated books for decades.) To these she is her own concise, almost like koan. Adds sloppy phrases, dull observations and contemporary instructions to their economy and style — some words in a block-shaped white sans-serif font, usually in one or more red bands or blocks.

The sizes of these word-image combinations range from small posters sneaked on city walls in the early days to mural-sized works, and more recently digital screens. They tell the dire truth about society, history, and our own way of thinking, which Kruger naturally refuses to call “political art.” Her words take advantage of our inner life and challenge our often naive assumptions about both ourselves and the tactics of the world. In her usual lack of varnish, as she explained it, in an interview: “My work has always been about power and control, body and money and the like.”

Many of Kruger’s phrases pervaded global consciousness if they were not yet famous from Descartes in the case of George Orwell, Tina Turner, or the prepaid confession of “I Shop, therefore, I Am”. The words appear in a screen print created by Kruger in 1987 as a red square provided by a large (unfinished) hand.

The most famous of all is, figuratively speaking, a statement of the obvious fact “Untitled (your body is a battlefield)”. These five words indicate a woman’s face with punctuation and divide the center into positive and negative images, the opposite sides. Kruger first proposed a poster that promotes filiation and NARAL’s reproductive freedom, which was planned in 1989 to promote the Women’s March in Washington, DC. .. Then she deleted the parade information, which became a work of art, but her life as a poster expanded dramatically. Its widespread use was facilitated by Kruger’s indifference to copyright in his work.

Kruger came to art from outside the art world and art school. Born in New Ark in 1945, she attended Parsons School of Design after enrolling at Syracuse University, where she joined Diane Arbus, a photographer of the people around her, and Marvin Israel, an influential art director. I studied. Her first job after graduating from her school was a great job. She has been involved in graphic design at Condé Nast for about 10 years. During this time, she gradually realized that she wanted to become an artist. After she stabbed into the production of the paintings she exhibited, she used her graphic design skills as a weapon.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Kruger was one of several artists who reorganized and expanded the relatively unobtrusive image and text combinations of conceptual art. She used to call it “closed system”. These artists took advantage of popular culture and aimed at a larger audience. Text featuring the stereotypes of women’s films that offer their own story, such as Cindy Sherman’s “Film Stills,” sometimes disappeared into the image. In other cases, starting with Kruger, images and text were combined and layered to create a sort of image and language push-pull that influenced all areas of design, not just art.

Kruger has been criticized for being visually repetitive, harassing, or promotional. None of these are accurate. Her work can sometimes feel relentless, but her voice is powerful, but over-suppressed and witty, unable to harass or promote. And while Kruger’s ideas evolved, her use of the language became more fluid. She also specializes in modern distribution systems, translating her previous work through digitization, animation and sound.

Still, as the installation at MoMA hosted by Peter Erie and Ranka Tattersall shows, Kruger continues to work in words alone, in a very large and dizzying amount. “Thinking You short myself.. I mean you Like most of her large walk installations, this is also an all-printed, non-animated incident.

Peace tower. It has three very high walls of the atrium and its floor wrapped in black on a white background of various sizes or white black blocks and strands on a black background, with a green touch to erase the pronoun. It’s the latest work in both places, and it feels emotional, unstable, and even ominous, as it was in this era. If it moves too fast, the type of shift block can rotate cubicly and vertically.

When you slow down, the colliding subject faces you. They consider themselves unstable and vulnerable, touching love and war, and flirt at the end of the world. Things start almost abstractly like a word game and get weird. One section begins with the chant “War Time, War Crimes, War Games” and eventually evolves into “War for a World Without Women”. Another text begins with a terrifying opposition to emotions. “This is about love and longing. About shame and hatred.” Finally, it’s site-specific. “About who is remembered and who is forgotten. Here. At this place.” In George Orwell’s words, the coolest moments of the MoMA installation are at your feet. “If you need a picture of the future, imagine forever imprinting boots on a human face.” This sentence is best read when you leave the atrium, move up one or two levels, and look down. It will be easier. You may find it safer there.

Kruger’s MoMA Committee was initially aimed at involving research organized by three museums: The Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and MoMA. The suspension of the investigation in New York was MoMAPS1. However, in the fall of 2020, PS 1 resigned due to schedule conflicts caused by Covid-19. Surveys on the other two museums.

Soon after, Zwirner intervened and picked up as many works as possible from the study. This turned out to be 17 recent or updated works compared to 60 in Chicago and 35 in Los Angeles. Zwirner’s accommodation is a bit like MoMA 53rd Street, with the advantage of being on the ground and free of charge.

At Zwirner, like the untitled scorching work of 1994, it begins with “our people are better than yours” and evolves from there (“more intelligent, more powerful, more beautiful,” And a cleaner … “).

Some pieces transform previous efforts through LEDs into virtually new pieces, adding value to soundtracks, cascade jigsaw puzzles, and entertainment. However, this technology allows Kruger to extend his language and think loudly. This is more truly vibrant. The phrase “your body is a battlefield” is replaced by the absurd “my coffee is a motorboat” and the violent “your skin is sliced”. One alternative to “I’m shopping, so I’m” could be the cry of this extreme political rally.

Arguably Zwirner’s best work is “Untitled (that’s our way)”. This is a vinyl wallpaper installation that traces the Kruger-style penetration (no, flood) to the bigger world, advertising and clothing brands (Hello, Supreme). , Political posters, sneaky online posts, T-shirts. It provides an almost overwhelming view of the culture on the move, whether art or archive.

Recently, the overthrow of the Roe v. Wade case has increased Kruger’s attention and spotlighted her famous poster in support of female reproductive rights. She wouldn’t mind being less noticeable. As she told Carolina Miranda at the Los Angeles Times, her decision was imminent, so “if my work gets old-fashioned, that would be nice.”

Barbara Kruger: You short myself.. I mean you

Until January 2, 2023, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 11 West 53rd St, Manhattan, (212) 708-9400;

Barbara Kruger

Until August 12, David Zwirner Gallery, 519, 525, 533 West 19th Street, Chelsea, (212) 727-2070;


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