Artist
Barbara Kruger
American artist

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Barbara Kruger
American artist
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Birth Date

1945

jtucker's picture

Contributor

Design wizard, outspoken feminist, reality T.V. junkie - of course we are talking about Barbara Kruger.

She is the queen of the advertorial aesthetic and has been blatantly pointing out everything that is wrong with society since the '70s. Given the current state of the world, I think it is safe to assume that Kruger won’t be running out of material anytime soon.

Kruger knew early on to do what all apprehensive parents wish for their children when they make the ballsy decision to go to art school - become a graphic designer, it may be your only hope to not become the quintessential struggling artist. Well maybe I am just projecting because that's what my parents told me. Lot of good that advice did me; my angsty teenage self decided to become a painter and subsequently my artistic career has gone nowhere. Kruger on the other hand may have been a little smarter than I and decided to explore the world of graphic design. It was undeniably one of the smartest decisions she made, for it was this work that propelled her into the realm of art world elite. It is her graphic design skills and advertorial aesthetic that snatches up the public’s eye. That or the fact that people can't ignore her for her work is ridiculously large and abundantly in your face. Either way, her artistic prowess seems to be working out pretty well for her.

It did not take Kruger long to gain some traction in the New York art world, but after being included in some big shot shows, such as the Whitney Biennial, Kruger soon became dissatisfied with her work. She decided to pack up and move across the country to Berkeley, CA. Soon after arriving, Kruger realized what all pretentious Cal students and yuppie Prius-driving Berkeley moms know: it is my duty to become an activist. While their form of activism generally includes rowdy rallies or sticking it to big oil money by living a plastic-free lifestyle, Kruger decided she would protest what she knows best - the patriarchy that runs rampant not only in the arts, but in society at large.

Kruger loves to give the world a cold hard dose of reality. While bashing pretty much everything that is wrong with society, she always rocks her signature move of including pronouns such as I, you, and we, just to drive home the point that we are all constructs of this messed up world and therefore each of us has the potential to be both the villain and the victim.

In addition to being a raucous feminist, Kruger is also surprisingly humble. A number of big brands have ripped off her aesthetic and, in turn, profited big time, yet Kruger never seemed to raise an eyebrow...that was until recently. The mega skateboard brand, Supreme, clearly developed their logo based on Kruger’s work. Recently, Supreme sued another brand for appropriating their Supreme logo. When asked how Kruger felt about all this, she responded in her classic pithy style that makes us love her so: “What a ridiculous clusterf*ck of totally uncool jokers. I make my work about this kind of sadly foolish farce. I’m waiting for all of them to sue me for copyright infringement.” Sounds like the joke is on them.

Some may bash Kruger for coming off like a negative Nancy, but as she once said, "I have no complaints, except for the world." I feel ya, girl. Lets face it, if she wasn't here to point out everything that is wrong with our social structure, someone else would. At least Kruger boasts her cynicism in such a visually playful manner that it is almost enough to make her viewers forget that they are at the root of the problems she is talking about.


 

ajardini's picture

Sr. Editor

This design diva knows you have to play to your skills.  She started out doing graphic design for magazines and used her advertising knowledge in her art practice.  She parlayed her ability to put together compelling text and images into super successful work that addresses feminism and consumer culture.

The language in her collages doesn’t mess around.  She uses personal pronouns that call out the viewer, like in the accusatory message of “Your gaze hits the side of my face.”  Yeah, guys.  Stop hitting us in the face with your gaze!

Featured Content

Here is what Wikipedia says about Barbara Kruger

Barbara Kruger (born January 26, 1945) is an American conceptual artist and collagist. Most of her 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. Kruger currently lives and works in New York and Los Angeles.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Barbara Kruger.