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Feminist conceptual artist Barbara Kruger, born in 1945 in Newark, New Jersey, now lives in Los Angeles and New York City. She attended Syracuse University in 1965, the School of Visual Arts, New York City, and studied at the Parsons School of Design in New York with graphic artist Marvin Israel and the famous photographer Diane Arbus.
She has taught at the California Institute of Art, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the University of California, Berkeley. She received from the state of New York, a Creative Artists Public Service grant in 1976, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1982, and a New York Foundation on the Arts fellowship in 1985.
Barbara Kruger exhibited in three Whitney Biennials, 1973, 1983, 1987, and London’s Institute of Contemporary Art in 1983. Her art is in the collections of the Milwaukee Art Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art and Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Kruger has experimented with soft sculpture, painting and photography. Essentially a graphic designer adept at two-dimensional commercial layout, Kruger finds herself a well-known fine artist in an art world that no longer can tell the difference between commercial art and fine art. Her entire work experience and background is as a designer. After leaving school, she worked for Conde Nast Publications, Mademoiselle (head designer), House and Garden, and Aperture.
As if still creating advertisements for chic clothing, expensive foods and sophisticated life styles, she now uses her design skills to attack the very values she once sold. She turns her talent for ad layouts to social commentary that, because it IS social commentary, somehow arrives at the level of fine art, although the superficial design premise is exactly the same. She merely selects found-object photographs that she overlays with verbiage critical of some social condition, some thing or some one in support of those victimized by powerful forces, whether corporate, societal or governmental.
In her work, feminist concerns rank high, of course, along with consumerism, class struggle, and questions of individual freedom. Like ads for running shoes, television personalities and political candidates, Kruger’s collaged art work appears on billboards, posters, train station platforms, and advertising cards in buses. But unlike these pedestrian creations and venues, Kruger’s social commentaries, in a commercial design format, appear as fine art in galleries and museums around the world.
Jules and Nancy Heller, “North American Women Artists of the 20th Century”
PBS Art 21 episode
Compiled and written by Patricia Chapman.
Biography from the Archives of AskART.