For those visiting during Art Basel in Hong Kong (29–31 March 2019), the smell of fresh paint may still be in the air at the latest heritage conservation project, The Mills, which opened on 16 March to encompass the Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textiles (CHAT), joining the ranks with ex-prison complex Tai Kwun, along with Eaton HK—a retro...
Firenze Lai says that she knows her studio of a few hundred square feet intimately; from the textures of its surfaces to the way the breeze blows into the room. The spaces depicted in her paintings are equally intimate. When curators seem to be at a loss for words to discuss troubled times, fear of containment, and the feeling of being completely...
In Meiro Koizumi's three-channel video installation, The Angels of Testimony (2019), the central frame features an interview with Hajime Kondo about his time as a solider of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The conversation centres on war crimes perpetrated in China, including the beheading of Chinese prisoners for...
Barbara Kruger, The Globe Shrinks. Exhibition view: Sprüth Magers, London (21 April-21 May 2011). Courtesy the Hammer Museum.
LOS ANGELES — Art is humanity's attempt to articulate life's intangible experiences. That idea is reflected in the title of Unspeakable, a new exhibition at UCLA's Hammer Museum. Museum director Ann Philbin and chief curator Connie Butler have created a trilogy of video installations from the Hammer Contemporary Collection, each projected in adjoining spaces. Each of the videos was made by a major artist — Kara Walker, Barbara Kruger, and Charles Atlas — within the past 10 years. In any one room, a visitor will still hear the audio of the other two, reinforcing the relationships between them.
The work of Barbara Kruger, with its black-and-white photographic images overlaid with declarative statements in Futura Bold typeface on black, white or red text bars, is as distinctive for its graphic qualities as it is for its directness of message. From the mid-1990s, Kruger began producing large-scale, immersive works, many of which have been exhibited in public spaces such as train stations, municipal buildings, billboards, and buses. Confronting viewers with bold imagery and short, pithy statements, her work brings power into question by using still images to mobilise the polemics of her textual provocations. Kruger's choice of aphoristic language will often point to the constructions of identity, both collective and individual, through her use of the pronouns 'our', 'we', 'you', 'I' and 'they'.
Following her graduation from Parsons School of Design in New York in 1966, Kruger worked as a graphic designer for Condé Nast. It was around this time that she produced her earliest works, in the form of large-scale woven wall hangings fashioned from diverse materials such as ribbon, feathers, yarn, sequins, and beads. For Kruger, the use of these materials was a way of reclaiming and re-evaluating craft's relegation to a position lower than that of so-called fine art. Amongst the work produced during this time were items sewed, crocheted, and painted in high key colour, combined with erotic and suggestive objects.
In 1976, Kruger relocated to Berkeley, California. While there she taught at the University of California, finding inspiration in the theoretical writings of Roland Barthes and Walter Benjamin. After a brief hiatus from art making, she took up photography in 1977, taking shots of architectural exteriors before pairing them with text-based ruminations on the buildings' occupants. 1979 saw the publication of her artist book, Picture/Readings. Kruger's pre-digital monochrome images of this period, commonly referred to as her 'paste ups', display the impact of her work as an editorial designer for magazines.
It was during the early 1980s that Kruger made the transition to her much celebrated practice of collaging, as we now know it today. Her method consists of developing compositions digitally on a computer, and later transposing the billboard-sized images on to various surfaces. Kruger's 1989 poster for the Women's March on Washington, in support of legal abortion, features the face of a woman bisected into negative and positive exposures on either side. The accompanying text, 'Your body is a battleground', signals the heated contestation around women's reproductive rights that had heightened in the wake of new anti-abortion laws. The following year Kruger deployed the same slogan for a billboard commissioned by the Wexner Center for the Arts in Ohio.
Many of the artist's slogans such as 'I shop therefore I am'—a play on philosopher Rene Descartes' famous statement 'I think, therefore I am' (Cogito, ergo sum)—evince her interest in feminist identity politics as they relate to patriarchy and capitalism: both structures of power and dominance so often internalised and propagated by their victims.
In 2005, as part of the 51st Venice Biennale, Kruger installed a digitally printed vinyl mural across the façade of the Italian pavilion, dividing it into three parts—green (left), red (right), white (centre). In both Italian and English, the words 'power' and 'money' crept up the portico's columns. On the left wall there was the statement, 'Pretend things are going as planned,' while 'God is on my side; he told me so' fills the right. That same year, Kruger received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale.
Kruger's works are in major museum collections worldwide, including the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles.
Kara Walker is a contemporary African American artist whose works explore themes of race, violence, identity, sexuality, and gender. Her practice encompasses a variety of media including painting, drawing, light projection, and film thematically focussing on exposing prejudices and bringing attention to enduring biases within relationships, both political and personal.
Walker’s most recognisable works are her panoramic cut-paper silhouettes of black figures against white walls which engage with unsettling historical events by proposing alternative narratives. Throughout her oeuvre, Walker confronts the atrocities committed against African American slaves during the Antebellum South whilst also relating to present-day concerns of inequality.
At age 28, Walker was among the youngest people to receive a MacArthur Fellowship when she did so in 1997. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012 and has been the recipient of numerous accolades including the 2004 Lucelia Artist Award from The Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Deutsche Bank Artist of the Business Year Award in 2000, and two Honorary Doctorates, one from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2006 and the other from the California College of the Arts in 2009.
The artist’s recent solo exhibitions have included Emancipating the Past: Kara Walker’s Tales of Slavery and Power at the University of Wyoming Art Museum (2016); Go to Hell or Atlanta, Whichever Comes First at Victoria Miro, Wharf Road (2015); Anything but Civil: Kara Walker’s Vision of the Old South at the Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis (2014); and Rise Up Ye Mighty Race! At Art Institute Chicago (2013). Walker’s work is held in several public collections including The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Musee d’Art Moderne, Luxembourg; The Tate Gallery, London; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.Kara Walker lives and works in New York.
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