The solo exhibition by Barbara Kruger for the Kunsthaus gives visitors a chance to explore the wide range of her artistic practice in different media. Alongside a host of her celebrated photocollages from the 1980s and a four-channel video work of 2004, she is for the most part presenting new installations in Bregenz that have been especially conceived for the unique Kunsthaus architecture.
What makes her videos, installations, collages, posters, and photographs compelling, among other things, is how she consciously reflects the art system—its hierarchies and strategies as well as its presentational and distributional relations. Again and again, Barbara Kruger breaks out of this system’s closed circuit by conceiving projects for magazines, poster walls, or other media and sites in public space.
Throughout her career, Barbara Kruger has reflected on or augmented the formal, thematic, and visual messages of these specific communication strategies, often unmasking their problematic ambiguity in the process. Just as the distribution and presentation sites she has used (e.g. magazines, posters) are characterized by a certain transience and intensified circulation, so too Kruger often insists on the ephemeral physical status of her works, since her wall and large-scale spatial installations are usually destroyed at the end of an exhibition. That they can be installed again in the same or in a different form on another occasion is just one of the ways in which the artist comments, with relish and wit, on the complex commodity character of art.
Ultimately, Barbara Kruger’s works are characterized by a high level of social commitment, advocating women’s rights, freedom of opinion, a critical awareness of the seductions of consumer culture, and of how power, or the lack of it, determines the feel of our days and nights. These—in the best sense of the word—striking works are captivating for their immediacy, their directness of address, involving the viewer by means of questions or clear-cut statements. Depending on their message, her text-image designs provoke the viewer to contradict, endorse, laugh, or ponder. No one is left cold.
until 12 January 2014