The architecture of Barbara Kruger
The artist Barbara Kruger is known for appropriations of pop culture imagery emblazoned with aggressive texts. The statements in her texts, such as I SHOP THEREFORE I AM and YOUR BODY IS A BATTLEGROUND put against a backdrop of imagery culled from advertising and magazines, implicate the viewer in the struggle for power and control. Her work confronts the notion of individual autonomy and desire in a capitalist consumer society. This post revisits some of her billboard interventions in various cities around the world.
“While Barbara Kruger is of course not an ‘architect’ in the sense of one who makes buildings, many of her works can be read to take on the presence of architecture, including many large public projects as well as room-sized gallery/museum installations and outdoor billboard/bus/etc. pieces. Her architectural sensibility is expressed in the programmatic planning and design of physical space; in this case the creation and transformation of disparate spaces with elements we have come to accept as ‘art.’ Instead of brick and mortar, Kruger builds with photomontages and slogan-cum-wallcovering text.
Kruger uses the greater world as her gallery. Never limited to showing in the ‘official’ venues for art, she shows her work on the cover of Newsweek, in the subways, on buses and buildings— even on t-shirts and matchbooks. So, then, her gallery installations are almost the exception to her ‘public’ style. By bombarding viewers with imagery she brings the in-your-face attitude of the street inside.” - courtesy of J.D. Welch
Barbara Kruger, “We Don’t Need Another Hero”, 1986, Billboard project in Berkeley California
Barbara Kruger, “Untitled (We don’t need another hero)”, 1988-89, 86 Street at West 7 Street, Brooklyn
Barbara Kruger, “Untitled (Your body is a battleground),” 1990, Billboard commissioned by the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio, for its “New Works for New Spaces: Into the Nineties” exhibition
Barbara Kruger, “Don’t be a Jerk”, 1996, Billboard across the intersection at the site of present Federation Square
The street art collective Boa Mistura see their work as an urban intervention, that utilises the digital technologies of 3D perspective onto the haphazard landscape of the favelas of São Paulo, Brazil. These site specific color field paintings project an optical illusion - viewed from a specific angle and distance, white text spelling out words such as ‘beleza’ (beauty) and ‘orgulho’ (pride) seem to float in midair. The group worked with residents to cover corners and passageways with vibrant colours in the shanty town and painstakingly detail every lightpole, brick, and pipe with the white lettering.
“We like to feel the place, talk with the local people, breath the atmosphere and be inspired before start working,” Purone said. “Because when you make a street intervention, it is linked to a particular place, and you need to have dialog with the environment.” - Pablo Purone of Boa Mistura, 2001