Artist and Musician Biographies


Here is Barbara Kruger "In Her Own Words," produced by the National Gallery.

Barbara Kruger was born an only child in 1945, in Newark, New Jersey. As a young girl she wanted to become an architect, and that ambition has carried into her mature art as many of her works either have architectural elements or relate to the architecture in which they are installed. She began college at Syracuse University, but left after a year when her father died. In 1966 she attended New York's Parsons School of Design for one year, and also received additional education at the School of Visual Arts, in New York.

She held positions as a graphic designer, art director, and picture editor in the art departments of several publications, including Mademoiselle and House and Garden. This publishing background gave her insight on how powerful the effect of the words and images of the media are on the public. She knew that adding words to her artwork would bring emotion to them. She also has taught at the University of California.

Kruger became known in the art scene in the early 1980s. She has worked in a number of media, including sculpture, painting and photography. She is now an internationally renowned conceptual artist best known for her poster-like works in black, white and red that combine photographs (usually from the media) and text. Her images rely as much on the power of language as visual imagery. The images are primarily black and white reproductions borrowed from the media with text printed across them. They challenge our beliefs and address cultural representations of sexuality and power. Kruger's art is focused on the causes that she believes in, and she makes very strong statements about those beliefs. A good example of this is her piece "Your Body Is A Battleground," which is clearly a statement on a woman's right to legalized abortion.

Kruger has done other pieces that make statements concerning domestic violence, racism, the world of business and the role of women in contemporary society. In these works, she takes the mass media of today's society, uses words to capture the viewer's attention, and makes the public question its very beliefs. She manipulates images to evoke surprises.

Kruger focuses most of her work on the deconstruction of the myth of male dominance. Because her art rejects the popular expectations of art, color and beauty, it is often be looked at as radical. Her art is political and is often subjective to the viewer looking at the piece because it has a different meaning depending on each viewer's personal experiences. One could argue that all art does this, but in Kruger's work the impact is often intense and highly personal.

Kruger's work can be seen on billboards, shirts, shopping bags, buses and subways, bus stops and other unconventional places for art to be viewed, as well as major museums and galleries. She takes images of the details of life that we tend to ignore and makes us come face to face with them. They make us ask questions. These questions are about the power distribution in society and our human condition. This is the purpose of her artwork and it is very successful; the success often comes from the use of the words "you" and "your" in the work. Phrasing these texts in the 2nd person voice engages the viewer in away that reveals their weaknesses and hypocrisies. In the end, her work questions and pushes the boundaries between popular culture and high culture.

In addition to being an artist, Kruger has had articles published in the New York Times and ARTFORUM. She has gained recognition as a film critic and has edited books on cultural theory.

She is represented in New York by Mary Boone Gallery, one of the most important avant-garde galleries in America. A major retrospective exhibition of her work was shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, in 1999, and at the Whitney Museum in New York, in 2000. Her work is in the permanent collections of a number of important museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and the Wexner Center for the Arts. A major series of works, in the form of floor pieces relating to the world of business, can be found in The Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business.

Kruger currently lives and works in Los Angeles and New York.

Page author: S.H.