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Part of the DiscourseBarbara Kruger
While sharing her earliest influences and what led her to become an artist, Barbara Kruger explains the origins of her 2017 Performa commission, Untitled (Skate), a site-specific installation at Coleman Skatepark in New York City’s Lower East Side. Growing up in a working class family in Newark, New Jersey before landing a job as a designer for Condé Nast publications, Kruger considers how her design experience lent a fluency and directness to the development of her text-driven work.
“Money talks. Whose values?” says Kruger, quoting some of the panels installed in the skatepark. “These are just ideas in the air and questions that we ask sometimes—and questions that we don’t ask but should ask.”
Direct not just in its address of the viewer, but also in its active engagement with social and political events, Kruger’s work uses the visual language of advertising to critique the very messages it emulates. Her work asks viewers to closely consider how global topics like consumerism and power play a role in their daily lives. “Something to really think about is what makes us who we are in the world that we live in.” says the artist. “And how culture constructs and contains us.”
Featuring Untitled (Skate), a Performa commission for the Performa 17 Biennial installed at the Coleman Square Playground in New York City; works from the artist’s multiple solo exhibitions at Mary Boone Gallery; and FOREVER, a 2017 site-specific exhibition at Sprüth Magers Berlin, amongst others.More information and credits
Producer: Ian Forster. Interview: Ian Forster. Editor: Anna Gustavi. Camera: John Marton & Anne Misselwitz. Assistant Camera: Daniela Klein. Artwork Courtesy: Barbara Kruger, Mary Boone Gallery, Performa, & Sprüth Magers. Music: Cloudjumper, Outrun, & Lee Rosevere. Photography Courtesy: Peter Sumner Walton Bellamy. Special Thanks: Gilder Gagnon Howe & Co. & Morgan Riles.
Extended Play is presented by Alta Art. Additional support provided by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; the Art21 Contemporary Council; and by individual contributors.
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Barbara Kruger layers found photographs from existing sources with pithy and aggressive text that involves the viewer in the struggle for power and control that her captions speak to. In their trademark black letters against a slash of red background, some of her instantly recognizable slogans read “I shop, therefore I am,” and “Your body is a battleground.” Much of her text questions the viewer about feminism, classicism, consumerism, and individual autonomy and desire, although her black-and-white images are culled from the mainstream magazines that sell the very ideas she is disputing.
“Where we’re born, what we are given, and what is withheld from us determines who we can be in the world.”
Barbara Kruger shares her media diet, what she sees as art’s role in contemporary society, and the inspiration behind two of her earliest works.