|Birth Day:||January 26, 1945|
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Kruger was born into a lower-middle-class family in Newark, New Jersey. Her father worked as a chemical technician for Shell Oil and her mother was a legal secretary. She graduated from Weequahic High School. She attended Syracuse University, but left after one year due to the death of her father. After her year at Syracuse University, in 1965, she went on to attend the Parsons School of Design in New York for a semester. Over the next ten years, Kruger established herself whilst pursuing graphic design for magazines and freelance picture editing, as well as designing book jackets. By the late 1960s, Kruger became interested in poetry, and began attending poetry readings as well as writing her own poetry. While at Parsons School of Design, Kruger studied art and design with Diane Arbus and Marvin Israel, and soon obtained a design job at Condé Nast Publications. Shortly after, Kruger was awarded the position of head designer for the following year. She initially worked as a designer at Mademoiselle and later moved on to work part-time as a picture editor for House and Garden, Aperture, and other publications. She also wrote film, television, and music columns for Artforum and Real Life Magazine at the suggestion of her friend Ingrid Sischy.
Kruger's earliest works date back to 1969, when she began creating large wall hangings which incorporated materials such as yarn, beads, sequins, feathers, and ribbons. These pieces represented the feminist reclamation of craft during this period. Kruger crocheted, sewed, and painted brightly hued and erotically suggestive objects, some of which were included by curator Marcia Tucker in the 1973 Whitney Biennial. She drew her inspiration for these pieces from Magdalena Abakanowicz's show at the Museum of Modern Art. Although some of these works were included in the Whitney Biennial, Kruger became detached and unsatisfied with her working output. In 1976, she took a break from making what had become more abstract works, feeling that her work had become meaningless and mindless. She then moved to Berkeley, California, where she taught at the University of California and became inspired by the writings of Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes. In 1977, she returned to making art, working with her own architectural photographs and publishing an art book, Picture/Readings, in 1979. She was inspired to photograph architecture by her family’s practice of touring "model homes they could never afford."
In 1979, Barbara Kruger exhibited her first works combining appropriated photographs and fragments of superimposed text at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, in Long Island City, Queens. Her first institutional show was staged in London, when Iwona Blazwick decided to exhibit her work at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1983. In 1999, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles mounted the first retrospective exhibition to provide a comprehensive overview of Kruger's career since 1978; the show travelled to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 2000. Kruger has since been the subject of many one-person exhibitions, including shows organized by the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (1983), the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal (1985), Serpentine Gallery in London (1994), Palazzo delle Papesse Centro Arte Contemporanea in Siena (2002), the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (2005), and Moderna Museet in Stockholm (2008).
In 1984, Kruger created a T-shirt design that featured a blown-up image of a woman's face with text running across the figure's eyes and mouth reading, “I can’t look at you…and breathe at the same time.” The shirt was produced as a collaborative project with fashion designer Willi Smith for his WilliWear Productions label. Since the mid-1990s, Kruger has created large-scale immersive video and audio installations. Enveloping the viewer with the seductions of direct address, the work continues her questioning of power, control, affection, and contempt: still images now move and speak and spatialize their commentary. In 1997, Kruger produced a series of fiberglass sculptures of compromised public figures, including John F. and Robert F. Kennedy hoisting Marilyn Monroe on their shoulders. For a concurrent show that same year in New York, she had city buses wrapped with quotations from figures such as Malcolm X, Courtney Love, and H.L. Mencken. To promote Kruger’s first retrospective, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, she created 15 billboards and countless wild postings, executed and installed in both English and Spanish. In support of a public awareness campaign to promote arts instruction in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Kruger covered a bus with phrases like, "Give your brain as much attention as you do your hair and you'll be a thousand times better off"; "from here to there"; "Don't be a jerk"; and "You want it. You buy it. You forget it." In 2016, Kruger created a work protesting the election of Donald Trump for the cover of New York Magazine and participated in a January 20, 2017 inauguration boycott.
Kruger's first dealer was Gagosian Gallery, with which she did two shows in Los Angeles in the early 1980s. In 1986, she was the first woman to join the prominent contemporary art gallery of Mary Boone and has had nine solo shows there. Following's the gallery's closure, she moved to David Zwirner Gallery in 2019. Kruger is also represented by Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago; and Sprüth Magers Berlin London (since 1985) and L&M Arts in Los Angeles.
In 1990, Kruger roused the Japanese American community of Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, with her proposal to paint the Pledge of Allegiance, bordered by provocative questions, on the side of a warehouse in the heart of the historic downtown neighborhood. Kruger had been commissioned by MOCA to paint a mural for "A Forest of Signs: Art in the Crisis of Representation," a 1989 exhibition that also included works by Barbara Bloom, Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons, Sherrie Levine, and Richard Prince. But before the mural went up, Kruger herself and curator Ann Goldstein presented it at various community meetings over a period of 18 months. After participants voiced protests about her design, the artist offered to eliminate the pledge from her mural proposal, while still retaining a series of questions painted in the colors and format of the American flag: "Who is bought and sold? Who is beyond the law? Who is free to choose? Who follows orders? Who salutes longest? Who prays loudest? Who dies first? Who laughs last?". A full year after the exhibition closed, Kruger's reconfigured mural finally went up for a two-year run.
In 1994, Kruger's L'empathie peut changer le monde (Empathy can change the world) was installed on a train station platform in Strasbourg, France. One year later, with architects Henry Smith-Miller and Laurie Hawkinson and landscape architect Nicholas Quennell, she designed the 200-foot-long (60 m) sculptural letters Picture This for a stage and outdoor amphitheater at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh. Between 1998 and 2008, Kruger created permanent installations for the Fisher College of Business, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA, the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and the Price Center at the University of California, San Diego. For a site-specific piece that she produced at the Parrish Art Museum in 1998, Kruger placed across the upper range of the museum's Romanesque facade stark red letters that read, "You belong here"; below, on columns separating three arched entry portals, stacked letters spelled "Money" and "Taste." As part of the Venice Biennale in 2005, Kruger installed a digitally printed vinyl mural across the entire facade of the Italian pavilion, thereby dividing it into three parts—green at the left, red at the right, white in between. In English and Italian, the words "money" and "power" climbed the portico's columns; the left wall said, "Pretend things are going as planned," while "God is on my side; he told me so" filled the right. In 2012, her installation Belief+Doubt, which covers 6,700 square feet (620 m²) of surface area and was printed on wallpaper-like sheets in the artist's signature colors of red, black, and white, was installed at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
Supreme, a skateboard and apparel brand established in 1994, have been accused of taking their logo—the white word "Supreme" on a red box—from Kruger's signature style. James Jebbia, founder of Supreme, has admitted that the logo was taken from Kruger's work. Kruger herself had not commented on this issue until a recent lawsuit between Supreme and Leah McSweeney, founder of Married to the Mob (MTTM), a women's street clothing brand. MTTM used the Supreme logo to make a "Supreme Bitch" logo that was printed on T-shirts and hats. In response, Kruger said, "What a ridiculous clusterfuck of totally uncool jokers. I make my work about this kind of sadly foolish farce. I'm waiting for all of them to sue me for copyright infringement." Eventually the lawsuits were dropped upon the parties reaching an agreement that McSweeney could continue to use the phrase "Supreme Bitch" as long as it was "not in the way Barbara Kruger does."
Kruger has taught an Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum, and at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, the University of California, Berkeley, and in Chicago. After teaching for five years at UCSD, she joined the faculty at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, where she is a Distinguished Professor of New Genres. In 1995–96, she was artist in residence at the Wexner Center for the Arts, where she created Public Service Announcements addressing the issue of domestic violence. In 2000, she was the Wiegand Foundation Artist in Residence at Scripps College, Claremont. She has written about television, film, and culture for Artforum, Esquire, The New York Times, and The Village Voice.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles awarded Kruger the MOCA Award to Distinguished Women in the Arts in 2001. In 2005, she was included in The Experience of Art at the Venice Biennale and was the recipient of the Leone d'Oro for lifetime achievement. At the 10th anniversary Gala in the Garden at the Hammer Museum in 2012, Kruger was honored by TV presenter Rachel Maddow. In 2012, Kruger joined John Baldessari and Catherine Opie in leaving the Museum of Contemporary Art's board in protest, but later returned in support of the museum's new director, Philippe Vergne, in 2014.
In 2007, Kruger was one of the many artists to be a part of South Korea's Incheon Women Artists' Biennale in Seoul. This marked South Korea's first women's biennial. That same year, she designed "Consider This...", an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In September 2009, Kruger's Between Being Born and Dying, a major installation commissioned by the Lever House Art Collection, opened at the New York City architectural landmark Lever House. In 2012, as a member of the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), Kruger volunteered to be the lead funder of the museum's scholarly exhibit Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974 and to create a new work on vinyl to sell, with proceeds going entirely toward the show's $1 million budget. An exhibition of new and recent work from Barbara Kruger was hosted by Modern Art Oxford in 2014.
In 2009, Kruger was included among the seminal artists whose work was exhibited in "The Pictures Generation, 1974–1984" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kruger has also participated in the Whitney Biennial (1983, 1985, and 1987) and Documenta 7 and 8 (1982 and 1987). She represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1982 and again participated in 2005, when she received the Leone d'Oro for lifetime achievement.
In late 2011, Kruger's 1985 photo of a ventriloquist's dummy, Untitled (When I Hear the Word Culture I Take Out My Checkbook), was sold at Christie's for a record $902,500.
Currently, Barbara Kruger is 77 years, 8 months and 3 days old. Barbara Kruger will celebrate 78th birthday on a Thursday 26th of January 2023.
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