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b. 1945, USA

Barbara Kruger Biography

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'.

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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.

John Mutambu | Ocula | 2018

Jessica Segall, A Thirsty Person, Having Found a Spring, Stops to Drink, Does Not Contemplate Its Beauty (2011). Performance/video still, archival print. Courtesy Thomas Erben Gallery.

Barbara Kruger Featured Artworks

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Untitled (We Won’t Play Nature to Your Culture) by Barbara Kruger contemporary artwork
Barbara KrugerUntitled (We Won’t Play Nature to Your Culture), 1983Softcover catalogue of the exhibition, 'Barbara Kruger: We Won’t Play Nature to Your Culture'
30 x 21 x 0.5 cm
Thomas Erben Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled (We will no longer be seen and not heard) by Barbara Kruger contemporary artwork
Barbara KrugerUntitled (We will no longer be seen and not heard), 19859 prints, photo-offset lithograph and screenprint
Sprüth Magers Enquire
Untitled (Shafted) by Barbara Kruger contemporary artwork
Barbara KrugerUntitled (Shafted), 2008Installation
David Zwirner
Belief + Doubt by Barbara Kruger contemporary artwork
Barbara KrugerBelief + Doubt, 2012–ongoingInstallation view
David Zwirner
Untitled (Speak for yourself) by Barbara Kruger contemporary artwork
Barbara KrugerUntitled (Speak for yourself), 1988Photograph
73 x 63 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Untitled (Busy going crazy) by Barbara Kruger contemporary artwork
Barbara KrugerUntitled (Busy going crazy), 1989Photograph
181.4 x 129.5 x 4.5 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
How can I be a better person? by Barbara Kruger contemporary artwork
Barbara KrugerHow can I be a better person?, 2011Archival pigment print
81.3 x 127 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire

Barbara Kruger Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, ecofeminism(s) at Thomas Erben Gallery, New York
Open Now
19 June–26 September 2020 Group Exhibition ecofeminism(s) Thomas Erben GalleryNew York
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Eau de Cologne at Sprüth Magers, Berlin
Closed
26 March–12 April 2019 Group Exhibition Eau de Cologne Sprüth MagersBerlin
Contemporary art exhibition, Barbara Kruger, FOREVER at Sprüth Magers, Berlin
Closed
16 September 2017–20 January 2018 Barbara Kruger FOREVER Sprüth MagersBerlin

Barbara Kruger Represented By

David Zwirner contemporary art gallery in 19th Street, New York, USA David Zwirner New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong
Sprüth Magers contemporary art gallery in Berlin, Germany Sprüth Magers Berlin, London, Los Angeles

Barbara Kruger In Ocula Magazine

Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Ocula Conversation Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo By Stephanie Bailey, Turin

Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Guarene and Turin, together with the Madrid Fundación, are creating a new constellation; mapping out a new geography that concretely embodies an idea of Europe based on reciprocity—between places, communities, fields of knowledge and cultures.

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Barbara Kruger In Related Press

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Kara Walker, Barbara Kruger, and Charles Atlas Dissect Modernity Related Press Kara Walker, Barbara Kruger, and Charles Atlas Dissect Modernity 7 May 2018, Hyperallergic

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...

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Books, Wefts, and Black Lives Matter at the Baltimore Museum of Art Related Press Books, Wefts, and Black Lives Matter at the Baltimore Museum of Art 27 May 2017, Hyperallergic

Like the Baltimore Museum of Art's books, Louise B. Wheatley's textiles and Pendelton's mixed-media ventures pack a punch (actually, hers is more of a lingering touch). With her, you don't see it coming; with him, you can feel the vibrations down the block. Her mists/his missiles, resounding, both.

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Barbara Kruger: back to the futura Related Press Barbara Kruger: back to the futura 12 October 2016, Dazed Digital

Barbara Kruger’s art hits you like a punch to the jaw. You’ve seen her work, even if you’ve never been to one of her shows – photography overlaid with coloured boxes filled with bold white Futura Oblique, or caps locked sans serif text that bears down at you from gallery walls and the sides and roofs of buildings. It’s...

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A celebration of women who made it to the top of the art world Related Press A celebration of women who made it to the top of the art world 19 August 2016, Hyperallergic

The current show at Sprüth Magers gallery, Eau de Cologn e, has a title that might seem like a play on the words (that’s what I initially thought), but it is actually quite straightforwardly unironic. It is simply the name of the art magazine published by Monika Sprüth between 1985 and 1989 that presented interviews with and essays about...

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