It’s Day 108 and it’s the first day without having people outside painting my house. I was able to sleep in a bit and relax with the doors closed. 🙂 It was nice since my sinus allergies are killing me or I’m still teetering back and forth with this cold. Well, I’m about to jump into sewing some monsters (again finally!). Join me in celebrating Barbara Kruger today.
Barbara Kruger (born January 26, 1945) is an North American conceptual artist. Much of her work consists of black-and-white photographs overlaid with declarative captions—in white-on-red Futura Bold Oblique or Helvetica Ultra Condensed. 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 lives and works in New York and Los Angeles.
Kruger was born into a lower-middle-class family in Newark, New Jersey. Her father
worked as a chemical technician, her mother as a legal secretary. She graduated from Weequahic High School. After attending Syracuse University and studying art and design with Diane Arbus and Marvin Israel at Parsons School of Design in New York, Kruger obtained a design job at Condé Nast Publications. She initially worked as a designer at Mademoiselle and later moved on to work part-time as a picture editor atHouse and Garden, Aperture, and other publications. In her early years as a visual artist, 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. From 1977 Kruger worked with her own architectural photographs, publishing an artist’s book, Picture/Readings, in 1979.
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.
Much of Kruger’s work engages the merging of 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. She develops her ideas on a computer, later transferring the results to often billboard-sized images. In their trademark white 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, consumerism, and individual autonomy and desire, although her black-and-white images are frequently culled from the mainstream magazines that sell the very ideas she is disputing.
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. The importance of appropriation art in contemporary culture lay in its ability to play with preponderant imagistic and textual conventions: to mash up meanings and create new ones. 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 reused 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. 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.
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, 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.
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,” an 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 course 18 months. Only after protests the artist offered 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 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 of surface area and was been 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.
Partial biography from wikipedia.
I enjoyed this piece today. I took the photo and had my message in mind and every time I’ve passed by it today, it’s reminded me of that message. I also learned new things about mod-podge! I was aware of Kruger’s messages and wanted to make this not entirely for society, but for myself. Although the message is very much for everyone. 🙂 I hope you like it and I’ll see you tomorrow on Day 109. Best, Linda