I shop therefore I am, 1987 Barbara Kruger
Face It (Green) 2007
Barbara Kruger has been described as a feminist, conceptual and a pop artist.
Her work reflects her interest in graphic design, photography, poetry and writing.
Describe the 'style' that Kruger has used in the two presented works.
Kruger uses her knowledge and interest in graphic design and writing to produce black and white images with thought provoking statements overlaid. The phrases usually make a bold statement that is juxtaposed by the image behind them and use pronouns such as “you”, “I”, “your”, “we” and “they” to invoke a reaction in the viewer and make them consider the message behind the artwork and her point in creating it. She has perfected a signature agitprop style, using large-scale, black-and-white photographic images juxtaposed with raucous, pithy, and often ironic aphorisms, printed in Futura Bold typeface against black, white, or deep red text bars (arthistoryarchive.com). I shop therefore I am portrays a black and white image of a hand holding a sign bearing the words of its title. The image made me think of the meaning behind it and the point Kruger is trying to get across. To me she is making us question what we do and how that makes us who we are. In the case of Face It, she has given it a green tinge to invoke the idea of money and how we spend it to make ourselves appear a certain way to the world or in hope of gaining something from what we wear. The image of a silky and shiny textured garment with a label reading “this luxurious garment won’t make you rich or beautiful” is overlaid with the printed words “Face It!” and made me think about the clothes I wear and the message that the clothes I do wear send out, in comparison to what I want them to say to those who see me.
What are some of the concepts and messages that Kruger is communicating in them?
Do these images communicate these ideas effectively? Explain your answer.
The bold obvious text speaks to the viewer Kruger’s opinions about a subject the images describe. The layering of the images with words directly on top make those viewing the image question why they are put together and the message behind them. To me, in these two artworks, Kruger is making the viewer think about who they are and what they do. It makes us think about ourselves socially and how we appear to the world as well as question our consumerism and materialism in what we have and need to have these things to be seen a certain way to achieve our goals.
Kruger’s knowledge from magazine publishing means she knows how to catch the eye of the viewer and hold their attention with her artworks and make them think about what they are being shown through them. Their wide distribution—under the artist’s supervision—in the form of umbrellas, tote bags, postcards, mugs, T-shirts, posters, and so on, (ROGALLERY.COM, 2009) to me spreads these ideas effectively in the fact that anyone who sees the images will question for themselves their meaning. It also advertises in the public her point of view in comparison to our own and our individuality as humans.
Define the concept of Mercantilism and explain how these two examples can connect with the concept.
Mercantilism is a political and economic system that arose in the 17th and 18th centuries that purports that a country's economic strength is directly related to the maintenance of a positive balance of trade. That is, in order to remain economically and politically viable, a country must export more than it imports.
From a merchant's perspective, profit originated from "buying cheap and selling dear." This is in contrast to the sacred belief of marketplace ideology held by classical economists—that exchange should be made on the basis of equivalents. Mercantilists believed, moreover, that the seller gains via the buyer's loss. Therefore, a nation will only become richer if it exports or sells more than it imports or buys. The view that profit or surplus originates in the unequal exchange of commodities was therefore perfectly consistent with the mercantilist policy of controlling the terms of trade (Sarich, J.A. referneceforbuisness.com). The two examples above by Kruger connect with this concept on the basis of money and buying trade items. Face It especially connects with this idea with its green tinge that is often associated with money in which mercantilism is all about. The idea of it making us think about what we buy portrayed in Kruger’s work relates as we buy things for a certain reason and like the principle behind mercantilism we often are buying things for a lot more than they actually cost for the sellers benefit.
Upload a more recent example of Kruger's work where she has used a new medium that is not graphic design. Title your image of the chosen work and comment on your response to the work. How do you think the audience would experience this work?
GAP Artist Edition T-shirt by Barbara Kruger
Limited Edition T-Shirt Collection Presented by Gap and the Whitney Museum of American Art Features the Works of Today's Most Influential Contemporary Artists.
I found it hard to find a more recent work by Kruger but found this 2008 fashion design T-shirt by Kruger for Gap. It is a combination of both graphic and fashion design and is a design on a t-shirt with no images but the text “Computers, sun glasses, watches, furniture, house & art (Plenty should be enough).” The collection of shirts was aimed at celebrating the intersection of art and fashion and enable people to access contemporary art in a different way, says Marka Hansen, President of the Gap brand North America (Gokcen, S. 2008). I like it as a design for clothing garment and think that it still incorporates her preferred medium and artistic nature. I think an audience would stop and want to appreciate and read this top and think about what is written on it as they passed it by. I think that the fact it is in a collection of t-shirts by contemporary artists for a major clothing company in America would get this design seen by many and would probably sell well. I like the simplicity of the 3 colours and large lettering in contrast to the tiny message made to stand out on the red stripes which divide the space.
Barbara Kruger Biography, 2009 ROGALLERY.COM
Sarich, J.A, updated by Knes, M. Mercantilism,
Gokcen, S. (2008, May 24). Gap Introduces Artist Editions T-shirts