Barbara Kruger, an American graphic designer who brings to light modern day problems of society using her art as a message conveyer of society problems. Her artwork consists of various pictures spliced together and newspaper like letters as captions for what she is conveying. Her artwork unlike others doesn’t immediately go into a museum or on a world tour instead it’s towards advertisement. This brings in more viewers and allows her to display what she what problems in society she wants to convey. Some of these artworks that bring to light issues are a picture of Adolf Hitler with his eyes blocked out and written on top of his photo the phrase “If you don’t control your mind someone else will”, or the one I will be focusing on the most “You are a captive audience.”
The first thing I want to bring up before I go into her work is she’s seen as an artist with mixed reviews, because she’s so open revealing political problems in the world. An article in The New York Times praises Barbara Kruger for using her art to bring attention to these issues but also criticizes it for sometimes sugarcoating things, thus losing its edge and full effect. The example used is her “Your Body is a Battleground.” It depicts a woman’s face in black and white showing it doesn’t matter what race your body is still a battleground for what you choose to do. It was created to support the pro-choice belief of most feminists. It was an attempt to legalize abortions birth control and strengthen women’s rights. Now from my perspective I don’t think she sugarcoated this problem at all. In the text of the artwork it clearly states “support legal abortion, birth control, women’s rights.” She wants us to know she stands for pro-choice women’s rights and thinks it needs to put into the limelight and dodged around.
Another example can come from “You are a captive audience.” This work of art pictures what I presume a man putting on his lover’s finger a wedding ring. There is another version of it with dental work and a tooth being removed from a patient. This caption says people are so easily captivated by extreme versions of our emotions. The ring version shows how easily as a society people can be easily captured by emotions of joy and happiness. Now the same thing can be said with fear. The dental version shows the tooth being removed from a patient and without a numbing agent of some kind this would hurt a person quite a bit. People love emotions even the more dark and negative ones like horrified and disgusted.
Going back to a previous artwork mentioned “If you don’t control your mind someone else will.” This piece is rather dark if you think about it. Since it’s talking about someone controlling your mind which we’ve seen throughout history can happen if you choose not to think for yourself. To bring this up to the world you can’t sugarcoat it especially using a figure the world revers as a symbol of dark times and tragedy. Barbara Kruger doesn’t try to scare people with the phrases she uses but rather “the phrases she uses can be moving.” Using another work, she created which most of America knows as “Your comfort is my silence.” What makes this piece so moving is the simple fact of ‘if your happy I’m happy’. No one can complain so someone else’s comfort can be someone else’s silence because they don’t need to say anything to begin with. ‘In an interview caption it says when someone asks someone what they think about Barbara Kruger they say she was obviously important during early 1980’s but now she isn’t so relevant and they can’t name any of her more recent works.’ I once again disagree with this because she points out problems with modern day things to. Her work “Remote Control” points out how easily the society we live in has gone to basically machines doing everything for us. This is a pressing issue with the growing obesity in the nation among other things.
With all this said I say Barbara Kruger is doing well with her art and is not sugarcoating anything and is taking a stand to reveal the problems of society in a memorable way. When someone judges her work, I think they need to realize the artwork she does is not for visual appeal as it is to make you think and realize what it means.
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Bishop, Claire. “Interview With Barbara Kruger.” MAKE Magazine, 9.
Cottner, Holland. “Art In Review.” The New York Times, C29.
Hagan, Charles. “Barbara Kruger : Cover Girl.” The New York Times, June 14, 1992, 82.
Linker, Kate. “Love For Sale.” New York Times Book Review, 3.