Episode #5 of the course “Ground-breaking contemporary artists”
Barbara Kruger is an American artist who is considered one of the pre-eminent feminist artists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. She is considered a “pop artist” by some, but a graphic artist or an “installation” artist by others. Her career has spanned nearly 40 years and includes painting, textiles, writing, film, audio, sculpture, and photography. Currently living and working in both Los Angeles and New York City, Kruger has exhibited across the US and in Europe. Her art is confrontational, often highly sexualized, and focused on political and social issues such as women’s rights and consumerism. Iconic phrases that appear in her artworks include “I Shop, Therefore I Am” and “Your Body is a Battleground.”
Not cruel enough
We don’t need another hero
Growing up in New Jersey, Kruger attended Syracuse University before working for Condé Nast publications. Although she created and exhibited some minor works for over a decade, she did not gain popularity or recognition until the early 1980s. At the beginning of her career, she worked in page-size spaces, often literally cutting and pasting images and text from magazines. Her recent works are created on a computer before being transferred to their final media; they are often now the size of a billboard, and one of her installations can take up an entire room.
Her work as a designer, writer, and graphic artist for magazines influenced her artwork’s style; she is known for striking red and white lettering layered over black and white photographs. While each has its own artistic message, the image and text come together to challenge the viewer; often, the phrases in Kruger’s art include questions or statements that use “I,” “you,” and “we,” causing the viewer to interact with the art and respond with a personalized answer.
Kruger is interested in pushing the boundaries of language and communication with her art, and she blurs the lines between commercialism and art with the reproduction of her pieces onto t-shirts, coffee mugs, and other consumer goods.
Your Body is a Battleground
I Shop, Therefore I Am
“Give your brain as much attention as you do your hair and you’ll be a thousand times better off.”
“Your comfort is my silence.”
“I have no complaints, except for the world.”
“I try to deal with the complexities of power and social life, but as far as the visual presentation goes I purposely avoid a high degree of difficulty.”
“Listen: our culture is saturated with irony whether we know it or not.”
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