(b. 1945)

Barbara Kruger was born in Newark, New Jersey, 1945 as an only child. She studied at Syracuse University, Parsons School of Design, and the School of Visual Arts in New York and has been exhibited world-wide.

Most of her work is made up commentary made with a few simple elements: black-and-white photos from magazines since the 1940's with a few lines of red and white text (using one typeface: Futura Bold Italic) right in front of your face to catch your eye. For example, the phrase and title "I Shop, Therefore I Am" is smack dab in the middle of a B/W picture of a hand that is supposed to be holding a business card for you to see. It's quite a simple way to tell you that people identify themselves and their culture by not what they do day-to-day, but by buying. A more famous picture in NYC is one right across the Port Authority bus terminal. It's a picture of a '50's housewife looking at a magnifying glass as though she's looking for germs. "It's a small world, but not if you have to clean it." It's Barbara's way of saying "Women are capable of going beyond the role of housewife thanks to folks like Gloria Steinem, but they are only associated with the role of the housewife cleaning dishes and the home."

Ms. Kruger's works are very simple, portable, and meant to be carried out to the public. Her pictures and text commentaries are translated for the folks in Germany and France with similar messages. Just like her original work being sampled from magazine photos, she can sample her own work and port it to city buses (done once in the borough of Queens in NYC), t-shirts, and public service announcements.

"77% of anti-abortion leaders are men. 100% of them will never be pregnant." -- one of the pro-choice ads from the New York subway system. It's been years since the ads were released in the subway trains, but they are easily carried on and remembered.

Ms. Kruger also uses her style of photo juxtaposed with her slogan-like commentary for the New York Times and other news magazines. If I can recall, she also had an interview with Howard Stern in Esquire magazine in 1994 using her own photo/text commentary design for the cover of Mr. Stern.

Currently, her work is exhibited in The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City from July 13, 2000 October 22, 2000. Ms. Kruger's exhibits range from her 1974 work of Picture/Readings, her fiberglass sculptures (one of them depicting a kiss between J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn -- gay-hating anti-communist goverment men, yet gay men themselves entitled "Justice"), architectural works like "Picture This" in North Carolina, and the photos that made her well-known all around the world.

Having studied photography long after Barbara Kruger's impact and style had been assimilated both into graphic design and popular consciousness in general, her work never had all that much effect on me. I found it gimicky, simplistic, and thought it was definitely preaching to the converted.

That was, until today...

Hurrying down Park Avenue on my lunch break after meeting with a good friend I rush past your typical Park Avenue boutique only to be forced to double take, walk back a few paces, and stare. There, directly in front of my eyes, is one of Barbara Kruger's most recognizable prints - "I Shop, Therefore I Am" (see above for Kit Lo's description) - plastered onto (of all things) the side of a hip canvas shopping bag.

This is a joke, right?

This is not a joke. This bag retails for $88. This bag is going to be carried about proudly by some fool who lives on Central Park South and only shops at the finest of locales and has no idea who Barbara Kruger is or what she stands for.

The Irony Is Delicious

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