Barbara Kruger

Barbara Kruger by Michael Leavitt

Barbara Kruger (b. 1945) is an 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 use of pronouns such as ‘you,’ ‘your,’ ‘I,’ ‘we,’ and ‘they.’ 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. 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 culled from the mainstream magazines that sell the very ideas she is disputing. Kruger juxtaposes imagery and text critical of sexism; the circulation of power within cultures is a recurring motif in her work. 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.

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