Barbara Kruger

On the op-ed page of the NYT today, this Barbara Kruger piece (“For Sale”) to celebrate the great American commercial holiday of Black Friday (yesterday):

I was astonished to discover that I hadn’t posted about Kruger before. Time to remedy this.

From Wikipedia:

Barbara Kruger (born January 26, 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”.

“For Sale” (in black and white) muses on shopping as a sociocultural practice and hints at another of her themes: sexual politics. Possibly her most famous shopping work:

Passing between the two themes:


And on to sexual politics:

Kruger falls in roughly with other conceptual artists — Glenn Ligon and Jenny Holzer, for example, linked to Ed Ruscha and other

“language artists” (link), visual artists who incorporate elements of language into their work; see “Conceptual art” (here), with links to earlier postings

and “More conceptual art (here), referring to Luis Camnitzer and postings on other artists:

6/13/10: The Commencement pun crop (link): Simon Drew’s pun art, among other things.

6/20/10: Puns in polyresin (link): Marsha Tosk’s Figures in Speech.

6/20/10: From the Simon Drew pun files (link): Drew’s pun art.

12/5/10: But is it art? (link): Dinosaur Comics, with references to captioning of found images, Duchamp, Holzer, and Ruscha.

12/6/10: Captioning: More is it art? (link): Blunt Cards and Lichtenstein.

12/8/10: More captioning as art (link): Dante Shepherd.

Here we have: captioning (especially in cartoons) as an art form, slogans as high art (Holzer, Kruger, Ruscha), slogans as pop art (Blunt Cards, posters, bumper stickers, buttons, and so on), and illustrated puns as a popular art form on their own.  From there we move to illustration  and caricature, as in this posting on Ralph Steadman:

Steadman is yet another artist most often labeled as a cartoonist, but who’s also a caricaturist, illustrator, and writer — in his case, with an audience of both children and (for his editorial cartoons and in his collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson) adults. In the company of Maurice Sendak, Raymond Briggs, Ronald Searle, and Saul Steinberg.

Clearly allied to these graphic artists are photographers like Walker Evans and Cindy Sherman (here).

In my household, we did shop (well, I sat at home making lists), but for medical supplies and food, and we haven’t forgotten them.



One Response to “Barbara Kruger”

  1. Doug Harris Says:

    Like many of my fiancee’s (mixed) race, we ‘celebrated’ African American Friday’ by staying home and keeping our heads down: Ignoring buy-buy-buy-related emails and the ads down the right side of the page beside them. And we got the best deals of all: quiet time with each other, with no present or future financial burdens.

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