Barbara Kruger at Skarstedt Gallery

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The beginning stages of iconic artist and Barbara Kruger’s career are surveyed in Skarstedt Gallery’s current exhibition Barbara Kruger: Early Works and features her large scale work from the 80s.

Barbara Kruger is the American artist and social activist that creates politically motivated work that demonstrates critique on mass culture and its power over individuals. Through the play of commercial graphic and advertising techniques, Kruger challenges the mentality that is fed to us through mass media’s indoctrination and seeks to challenge its gender/power relations.

Early Works presents Kruger’s large scale black and white images that are overlaid with her bold provocative statements within red, enamel frames. The large photographs taken from media sources are cropped, enlarged and juxtaposed with her strident verbal statements that are born from political agitation and address power, identity, gender and sexuality, her works are ones of semiotic conflict.

The images she chooses to stand behind her statements are stark, powerful and familiar to any eye that has sub-consciously absorbed mass media, Kruger said herself her work seeks to ‘question the seemingly natural appearances of images’.  For Kruger, imagery is an instrument to entice and beguile with the statements then used to accost; her use of the pronoun is a distinctive draw, and then a direct assault.

Kruger’s works on display at Skarstedt feature phrases such as ‘your life is a perpetual insomnia’, ‘you kill time’, ‘you make history when you do business’ and ‘business as usual’ overlaid on heads held in hands, wolves baring teeth and businessmen’s feet. They’re evocative of the ‘decade of greed’ of the 80s in which they were produced. Nothing is more symbolic of Kruger’s attack on the moral permission of this obsession with business and power over anything else than the work with a house blowing up, a man leaping from it and a (rare) small statement of ‘your money talks’.

The red frames do not exist as a mere continuation of her visual assault, they function as a statement within themselves on the commodification of imagery as something as ‘simple’ as a recycled image with some overlaid text can be imbued with such value once installed within a frame, within a marketplace (of the gallery). On her frames, Kruger says that they were ‘the most effective packaging device. Signed, sealed, delivered.’

Barbara Kruger: Early Works is a display of the beginnings of Kruger’s career, the foundations of a body work that directs an address on the power of image, and then ourselves. Her disgust and critique of our hunger for money and power is just as relevant as it was in the time of these work’s conception and attests to her being an iconic and timeless political provocateur.

Barbara Kruger: Early Works is on show at the Skarstedt Gallery, London from now until 11th April 2015

More information can be found here.

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