Presenting large-scale works from the 1980s, this exhibition surveys the beginning stages of influential American artist Barbara Kruger. Her black and white photographs are overlaid with boldly printed provocative captions such as “don’t buy us with apologies” and “we are your circumstantial evidence” to examine power, identity, gender and sexuality. These texts juxtapose their accompanying imagery to, as she explains, “question the seemingly natural appearance of images.”
Kruger’s work utilises the same visual tools as the mass media, however subvert rather than support the consumerist ideas and the illusions of modern American culture that they derive from. They have contributed significantly to the discourse of themes as varied as Conceptual Art, Semiotics and Feminism.
This exhibition sees Kruger’s works presented in her signature red enamel frames, which separate her artworks from their original use as prints, posters, everyday ephemera. These frames are a simple tool used to challenge the visual language of consumerist culture, discovering how easy it is to imbue value into a previously worthless item and how easily swayed society is by a construction as simple as a frame, a glass case or a label. Kruger’s work uses shock tactics and wit to both explore and create commodification.
Barbara Kruger: Early Works, until 11 April, Skarstedt London, 23 Old Bond Street, London W1S 4PZ.
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1. Barbara Kruger, Untitled (You make history when you do business), 1981, gelatin silver print in artist’s frame. Courtesy of Skarstedt London.