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Artist in Focus : Barbara Kruger

In this section for Art From Us, we pick one artist to showcase their work and creative journey so far. Today, we look at Barbara Kruger.

Art From Us & Divvya Nirula introduce you to artists and their art. Underlining significant works, discovering creative practices. And giving you a glimpse into their studio.

Early Life

Compelling black and white images that are taped over with strong font-ed messages, and bold black and white fonts that make a case to be heard. This style makes for some of the most iconic art works. The artist in question – Barbara Kruger. Born in 1945 in Newark (NJ), Barbara started from very humble beginnings. Her early education was at Syracuse University but it was really when she joined the prestigious Parsons School of Design, for a semester that there was a significant development steering Kruger towards her goal.

Kruger worked hard as a graphic designer doing book jackets, and freelance picture editing. But she could never forget the memorable classes by Diane Arbus and Marvin Israel. All Kruger’s hard work and dedication won her a place at Conde Naste Publications and from there was no looking back for the girl from Newark.

Kruger’s interest in poetry was a critical aspect of the development of her style. It was in the 1960s that she started attending poetry readings and writing some on her own as well. Writing gradually became a part of what she did, and a mode of self-expression for her. She was gradually a part of the New York art circuit.

Kruger and Appropriation Art

It was during the time that Kruger taught at the Whitney that she became disillusioned by her own abstract expressionist works, she was looking for her own method, her own brand of art work. Kruger left the East coast and moved to Berkely, teaching at the University of California. Reading Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes was a part of the process which led her to work with her own pictures and publishing Picture/Readings (1979).

By 1980s Kruger had made the switch to her modern style of collages and writings paired for maximum impact. Kruger’s work often falls under various categories – she is a conceptual artist, or one from the Pictures Generation but in reality – the import of her work is delivered by the deliberate subversion of that which is familiar and known.

Pictures and words seem to become the rallying points for certain assumptions. There are assumptions of truth and falsity and I guess the narratives of falsity are called fictions. I replicate certain words and watch them stray from or coincide with the notions of fact and fiction.

– Barbara Kruger

Contribution

Kruger’s contribution to the world of contemporary art is emphatic and ever so relevant, more so– with the advent of social media and gender studies having taken definitive turns. Recognition for her works came by 2009 when her work was exhibited in “The Pictures Generation, 1974–1984” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She also was a participant atthe Whitney Biennial (1983, 1985, and 1987) and Documenta 7 and 8 (1982 and 1987).

Kruger represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1982 and in 2005, she received the Leone d’Oro for lifetime achievement.


To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit the Artist in Focus archive.

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