Barbara Kruger uses pictures and words to create thought provoking works that question the messages we get from mass media.
Early Life and Education
Barbara Kruger was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1945. An only child, Kruger’s father was a chemical technician and her mother was a legal secretary. Kruger says that her first interest was architecture and that she drew pictures of houses while living in the family’s three-bedroom apartment.
After graduating from Weequahic High School, she spent a year at Syracuse University and then went to New York to take art and design classes at the Parsons School of Design. At Parsons, Kruger studied with photographer Diane Arbus and designer Marvin Israel. Although Kruger only spent about a year at Parsons, Israel recognized her talent and encouraged her to put together a portfolio of her work and pursue and career in design.
In 1966, Kruger left Parsons and got a job with Conde Nast Publications. She worked as a designer for Mademoiselle magazine. Part of her job was laying pages before the actual text was submitted for publication. The idea of taking a photograph and pasting copy over the picture led to the textual style that she is best known for. By the age of 22, Kruger was made lead designer of Mademoiselle, but she still wanted to create her own work. Early on in her career she experimented with textile, creating erotic objects from crochet, sequins, beads, feathers and ribbon and had some of her work shown at the 1973 Whitney Biennial.
It wasn’t until 1977, when she moved to Berkley to teach at the University of California, that she began to produce photographs covered with bold text and developed her own unique style.
One of Kruger’s most iconic works is one she did for the Women’s March on Washington in 1989, when new laws were being introduced to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court Decision. The bold lettering, reading Your body is a battleground, is characteristic of Kruger’s ability to combine art and protest and challenge the viewer to think about the meaning of each work.
Barbara Kruger in her Tribeca Studio 2010
Barbara Kruger Untitled, 1987
Barbara Kruger Untitled, 1989
My Pretty Pony by Stephen King, Illustrated by Barbara Kruger, 1989