KRUGER, BARBARA (1945– ), U.S. conceptual artist. Born in Newark, New Jersey, Kruger studied at Syracuse University (1964–65) and the Parsons School of Design (1965–66), where her teachers included the photographer Diane *Arbus and Marvin Israel, a graphic designer and an art director of Harper's Bazaar in the early 1960s. After a year Kruger stopped taking classes and began to work as a designer at Mademoiselle magazine. Kruger's early forays into the artworld included experimentation with fiber art and then painting large abstract canvases. The mid-1970s were an important period of transition when she became interested in feminist criticism and theoretical writings by such authors as Roland Barthes. She also began writing poetry, reviewing films, and taking photographs. In 1978 Kruger published Picture/Readings (1978), a book of photographs of California residential buildings accompanied by narratives describing her imaginings of the inhabitants' thoughts and activities. This interest in photographs and text initiated the works for which she is best known.
Her experience as a graphic designer influences her economy of means and the direct confrontation of her signature style: a format of glossy black and white found photographs, cropped and enlarged, overlaid with catchy phrases and surrounded by a red metal frame. Indeed, through a juxtaposition of text and image Kruger uses photographs to examine, question, and exploit power relations – frequently gender and consumer – in such works as the photo-montage Untitled (Your Gaze Hits the Side of My Face) (1981, private collection). The black and white words of the work's title are glued on the left side of this appropriated image of a woman's profile. The terse caption employs an accusatory tone directed at the masculine viewer (Your) who has objectified the woman (My) for centuries. Starting in 1985 Kruger also created lenticular images. By placing two photographs behind a lenticular lens screen the images shift depending on the viewer's angle, allowing Kruger to make works that employ two messages and to create an illusion of three-dimensionality. Kruger's political messages can be found in traditional gallery spaces as well as in the more general public domain, including postcards, posters, t-shirts, and billboards.
C. Squiers, "Diversionary (Syn) tactics: Barbara Kruger Has Her Way with Words," in: ArtNews (1987), 76–85; B. Kruger, Barbara Kruger (1988); K. Linker, Love for Sale: The Words and Pictures of Barbara Kruger (1990); B. Kruger, Barbara Kruger (1999).
[Samantha Baskind (2nd ed.)]