Barbara Kruger, one of the most innovative contemporary artists and photographers who blends graphic design, typography, anti-consumerism, and social critique through her pictures.
Why I love her work
- Pictures to make social commentary. Not pictures for picture sake.
- Pictures that fight and push back against consumerism, the Art World, empowerment of women.
- Innovations using a simple palette of black, white, and red. You can do a lot with a few colors.
- Edgy, powerful messages that STICK.
Assignments for you
- Create a photo montage of text, your photos, and a political, social, or economic message you want to make. Do this on photoshop or “in real life” with glue and scissors.
- Try to make a Barbara Kruger copy image. Have fun. Realize the steetwear brand SUPREME copied her style.
- Don’t just do traditional photos. Remix your own image, and make something new.
Inspirations from other master photographers
Interesting that she was inspired by Alexander Rodchenko, who also experimented with text, images, and visual collages. Lesson: Experiment violently with pictures. Focus more on a social impact through photos, not just “pure photography.” Being anti-traditional in Photography.
Interesting that she was taught by DIANE ARBUS, also one of the great female masters of photography. I wonder what impact Arbus had on Kruger? My theory: edgy pictures, that are brutally honest. Not “photoshopped reality”.
Short, but Powerful
We all have short attention spans, as Kruger once said. Some of her short, and powerful statements:
“Your fictions become history”
“Your body is a battleground”
“I shop therefore I am”
Questions such as “Who prays loudest?” or “Who laughs last?” – the latter accompanying a skeleton standing up at a microphone
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stomping on a human face forever.” (from George Orwell)
Lesson: Short and sweet is generally more memorable. Bold graphics, bold colors (red, black, white) catch your attention. Therefore, don’t make boring art. Great art has great marketing built into it.
Inspiration from architecture, and the ordering of space
Architecture is my first love, if you want to talk about what moves me.. the ordering of space, the visual pleasure, architecture’s power to construct our days and nights.”
I love the positioning of elements in Kruger’s pictures. I need to study the position of her text, her layout of lines, where she puts frames, and what kind of images she uses.
Also as a personal note, study this concept of “ordering of space” in architecture. Where does “visual pleasure” come from?
Looking at her work, makes me challenge my own consumerist behavior.
Lesson: Visual images and pictures (like propaganda) can change the minds, hearts, and souls of the viewer… to challenge their cultural beliefs.
My Favorite Works by Barbara Kruger