Kruger’s artistic life began in the early 60s, but her first intensive involvement with print media didn’t occur until she was employed as a graphic artist and picture editor by Condé Nast Publications in New York. Among the magazines she worked on were Mademoiselle and House and Garden. Her insights there into the power of images, both to deter and to seduce, were an early influence on the artist’s work. It was her work at these high profile publications that allowed Kruger to develop her trademark style of collaged found material. Clippings from books and magazines were horded by Kruger to create an immense archive of texts and images with a combination of both high end glossy magazine adverts and figurative body parts from text books and medical journals. These cuttings would be amalgamated, cropped and edited to create a final back and white image reformatted and re-photographed into Kruger’s trademark artistic lexicon.
“We are very good mimics, we replicate certain words and pictures and watch them stray from or coincide with your notions of fact or fiction” (Alexander Alberro, Barbara Kruger, New York 2010, p. 18). Indeed, Kruger’s work focuses on connecting with the masses through established communication channels produced from our culture, which is governed by images and advertising. With a concentration on visual media and the power of persuasion, Kruger creates images constructed for widespread diffusion of a gnomic nature. With an almost violent intent, she pushes both political and feminist views, advocating women’s rights, freedom of opinion and a critical awareness of the seduction of consumer culture. Kruger observes the media’s brazenness of cruelty, oppression and humiliation and questions any assumption of authority. She continually challenges and unmasks the media’s problematic ambiguity of their visual messages. Kruger created We are Public Enemy Number One as an example of the effect mass media has on the population; our surroundings are the product of our own downfall, our hunger and demand for immediacy has allowed global powers to dominate our intake and control our visual surroundings, becoming a formidable force of intimidation and inducement.
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