Barbara Kruger, Untitled (You kill time), 1983, black and white photograph, 72 x 49 in. © Barbara Kruger, Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (You kill time), 1983, black and white photograph, 72 x 49 in. © Barbara Kruger, Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt

Skarstedt London is showing an exhibition of seminal early works by American artist Barbara Kruger. The exhibition features Kruger’s large-scale black and white photographs, overlaid with provocative captions in bold Futura type. This group of works, all from the 80’s, examines the structures of culture, particularly power, identity and sexuality, cleverly using the same visual language as the mass media it is challenging.

As Barbara Kruger puts it, “In my work I try to question the seemingly natural appearance of images through the textual commentary which accompanies them”.

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (We are your circumstantial evidence), 1981, black and white photograph,  91 1.2 x 61 1.2 in. © Barbara Kruger, Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (We are your circumstantial evidence), 1981, black and white photograph, 91 1.2 x 61 1.2 in. © Barbara Kruger, Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt

Presented in Kruger’s signature red enamel frames, the works literally jump out at you. Her strategy has always been to challenge the visual language and power structures of the consumer culture. As Kruger confirms: “These were objects. I wasn’t going to stick them on the walls with pushpins. I wanted them to enter the marketplace because I began to understand that outside the market there is nothing… That’s what the frames were about: how to commodify them. It was the most effective packaging device. Signed, sealed, delivered.”

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Your life is a perpetual insomnia) 1981, gelatin silver print laid down on cardboard in artist's frame, 72 18 x 46 12 in. © Barbara Kruger, Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Your life is a perpetual insomnia) 1981, gelatin silver print laid down on cardboard in artist’s frame, 72 18 x 46 12 in. © Barbara Kruger, Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt

As someone whose initial impact might unfairly have waned because we have since seen similar treatments thanks to artists (be that graphic, grafitti etc) being ‘inspired’ by her message, it is good to see her ground-breaking works of the 80’s again, to be reminded of how these pieces have contributed so significantly to the discourse of themes such as Conceptual Art, Semiotics and Feminism, deservedly earning her a place among the leading artists of today.

Barbara Kruger | Early Works
Skarstedt
23 Old Bond Street
London W1S 4PZ, UK

Till 11 April 2015
Tuesday to Friday 10am – 6pm; Saturday 10 am – 5 pm

Admission is free

Words by Anna Bang

Tags

anna bang, Barbara Kruger, Skarstedt,