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.
—— Barbara Kruger
Barbara Kruger is an American conceptual artist and collagist. Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1945, Kruger attended Syracuse University’s School of Visual Arts, and studied art and design with Diane Arbus at Parson’s School of Design in New York. Kruger obtained a job at Condé Nast Publications, and worked as a graphic designer and picture editor for Mademoiselle magazine, Vogue, House and Garden, Aperture, and other publications. Her career path directly influenced the style her art would eventually take.
Most of Kruger’s 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. 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.
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.hese pieces represented the feminist recuperation of craft during this period. After taking a break from making what had become more abstract works in the late 1970s, Kruger switched to her modern practice of collage in the early 80’s.
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. 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. 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.
Major solo exhibitions of Kruger’s work have been organized by the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Palazzo delle Papesse Centro Arte Contemporanea in Siena, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, and Moderna Museet in Stockholm. 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. Kruger lives and works in New York and Los Angeles.