Barbara Kruger

(b. 1945)

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(1945– )

American artist and designer. She had a successful career as a magazine and book designer in New York, working for magazines such as Mademoiselle and House and Garden, before turning to art in the mid-1970s, initially with fibre hangings influenced by Magdalena Abakanowicz and then with paintings. In 1977 she began using the form for which she is best known—black and white photographs or photomontages carrying texts challenging social stereotyping, particularly of women; in these she turned the graphic skills she had acquired as a magazine designer against the consumerist culture those publications celebrated. A famous example of 1985 showed a little girl feeling a little boy's muscles with the caption ‘We don't need another hero’. More sinister is the image of three blades, the kind found in a designer's studio, in raking light, arranged like film noir gangsters, captioned ‘I am your slice of life’. These pieces are generally untitled to emphasize that the words are part of the work rather than an explanation of the image. Her work has been seen in a museum context but also on T-shirts, billboards, matchbooks, and postcards. It has a characteristic look, one might almost say ‘corporate identity’, based on a limiting of colour to black, white, and red and a consistent typeface (Futura bold italic). Kruger commented that ‘If those images on the street are read as pictures with words on them, that is what they are. Whether they are read as art or not is really not of much meaning to me.’

Further Reading

S. Nairne, State of the Art: Ideas and Images of the 1980s (1987)

Subjects: Art.

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