Pop Quiz: What’s black and white and red all over?
A newspaper of course!
Also, it is an uncomfortable and tastily iconic collage or screen installation by American contemporary artist Barbara Kruger, who is treating you this summer to two shows; one at David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea and one at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in midtown.
She reveals an utter sensitivity to the implication of individual words as well as phrases. Whether it’s the pithy bromides of yesteryear, the entreaties of advertising copy, the humble brag of a politician-preacher, or the casual misogyny of a rapper, it catches Kruger’s eye and ear and she brings it to you in bold direct graphic style.
“Your Body is a Battleground” is a fact that rears its head in ways that shock and dismay, year after year. But the battleground she skirmishes upon most often is the modern mind – attacked on all sides today by a propagandist media and an ever more invasive ad business that has encroached on your most personal desires and decisions.
Thankfully she has often put her large blasting siren texts on the city street – where everyday people can encounter them, interact with them, ponder them. The body of Krugman’s work is an indictment, and one that has helped countless fans perhaps to sharpen and focus their own critiques of slogans, campaigns, art world word-salad, and white papers from so-called “think tanks”. If there ever was a university for nationwide mass media studies and literacy, Kruger would be Dean.
It’s good to see a large collection of works together. At both Zwirner and MoMA your are flooded with options to see and consider. Some of the images or texts have gotten caught in a zeitgeist that passed, but much of it is deliciously on target, timeless in its critique. With direct and sly placement, Kruger is plainly hoping to be instructive on how to reexamine the manner in which we are gradually formed, seduced, shoved into obedience by images, words, associations, and emotions.
Here she is in the repetitive pounding messages, the mix of blinking photo and text collages, the large-scale monochrome images overlaid with text, the reliable Futura Bold and Helvetica Extra Bold, the bars of black, white, and red.
Barbara Kruger: Thinking of
You. I Mean Me. I Mean You. Is currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC until January 2023. Click HERE to find more information.