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Barbara Kruger (American, b.b. 1945)
Also known as: $15Kruger, Barbarah; Kruger, Barabra; BARBARA KRUGERBirth Place: Newark (Essex county, New Jersey, United States)
Barbara Kruger (January 26, 1945 - ) was born in Newark, New Jersey. Kruger is best known for her silkscreen prints where she placed blunt confrontational statements on the surface of found photographs. Her work as a conceptual artist is associated with the rise of Feminism in the 1980s, creating a dialogue through her declarative statements that address and critique the cultural constructions of power, identity, and sexuality.
Kruger attended Syracuse University’s School of Visual Arts and left after only a year when her father died. In 1965, she went on to study art and design with Diane Arbus and Marvin Israel at Parson’s School of Design in New York. She obtained a design job at Condé Nast Publications and the following year she was awarded the head designer. While Kruger was at Condé Nast, she worked as a graphic designer and picture editor for Mademoiselle magazine, Vogue, House and Garden, Aperture, and other publications. This extensive experience and background in design is strongly reflective in the work for which she is now known around the world.
As a conceptual artist, Kruger’s unique method of merging images with text creates a direct communication with the viewer. By appropriating found images from their original context in magazines, they become the background against which her confrontational phrases are inscribed. Through her distinctive wit, Kruger’s works succeed in interrogating the viewer to question and reconsider their own situation in contemporary society.
Many of her early works included large wall hangings of various materials like yarn, beads, sequins, feathers and ribbons, which reflected the period’s feminist recovery of craft. Some of these pieces were selected and exhibited in the 1973 Whitney Biennial, curated by Marcia Tucker.
In addition to being categorized with other feminist postmodern artists of her day, including Jenny Holzer, Cindy Sherman, Sherry Levine, and Martha Rosler, Kruger is also considered to be part of the Pictures Generation. In her words, “I work with pictures and words because they have the ability to determine who we are and who we aren’t.”
Kruger’s trademark style is recognized by black lettering against a slash of red background. The black and white images she uses derive from popular magazines that advertise the exact messages she questions and disputes. Two of her most famous slogans read “I shop, therefore I am,” and “Your body is a battleground.”
Untitled (Your body is a battleground), 1989, portrays a silkscreened frontal photograph of a model’s face dissected into multiple sections, with the face divided by the caption “Your body is a battleground.” The dissected image addresses the standards of beauty with which women are objectified. Originally, the work included more text and was created as a poster for the large pro-choice rally that took place in Washington, D.C., in 1989.
Kruger returned to magazine design in the 1990s. She has taught at the California Institute of the Arts, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and University of California, Berkeley. She lives and works in New York and Los Angeles.
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