The Art of Barbara Kruger: Iconic Works You Should Know About

The Kruger Collector’s Edition Handbag

Barbara Kruger was always fascinated with the relationship between high-end fashion and visual language. In the 1990s, she created a series of ads for Gucci’s “Collector’s Edition Handbag” series. She did so by taking visual language that we see in ads all the time and overlaying them on top of the handbag’s image. These ads were published in magazines like Joyce W. W Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar. Kruger was able to use her visual irony to make a biting commentary on consumerism and materialism. The words and images she chose to overlay on top of the Gucci handbag’s image are particularly scathing: “I Shop Therefore I Am” and “You Don’t Have to Be Dead to Be a Good Investment.”

“You’re Going to Rot Anyway”

Kruger’s work often focuses on issues surrounding sex, gender, and race. In 1992, she created a large-scale billboard that was situated in the middle of New York’s Times Square. Alongside an image of a newborn baby’s hand, one of the billboard’s captions read: You’re going to rot anyway.” Another billboard included the words: “Our definition of beauty is too narrow.” In this work, Kruger was trying to send a message about how society’s values are often contradictory and dehumanizing. She was attempting to illustrate how the fashion industry defines beauty standards that are too narrow, and how babies are not treated with the same respect as adults.

Untitled (To Be Fair)

Untitled (To Be Fair), which was created in 1989, is one of Barbara Kruger’s most iconic works. It is a black-and-white photograph that features the text of a magazine advertisement for a luxury car. Kruger has used a variety of car advertisements for this piece, but she has always chosen the same caption: “To be fair, you’d have to be blind not to see the advantages of driving one of these vehicles.” In this work, Kruger is criticizing the fashion industry’s narrow beauty standards and the ways in which they attempt to influence us.

Women’s Rights / Violence Against Women

In the late 1980s, Barbara Kruger created a series of works titled Women’s Rights, which was a response to the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment in the United States. More specifically, Kruger’s work highlighted the connection between the defeat of the ERA and the increase in violence against women. Kruger used a variety of visual languages in these works, including magazine advertisements and text from newspaper headlines. One of the works in this series features the text: “The same advertising industry that created the need for the ERA is now creating the need for violence against women.” Kruger also takes a critical look at visual languages in the media, particularly with regards to how women are depicted. In the same work, Kruger superimposes the image of a woman’s mouth onto the picture of a pair of lips.

The Collage Series: Including the Famous Windows series

Kruger’s famous Windows works are made up of magazine advertisements or images that she has cut out. She then uses these images to illustrate the problems with our capitalist society. In her first Windows series, which was created and exhibited in 1984, Kruger used images of luxury goods and advertisements. She then placed these advertisements on the windows of commercial buildings in Manhattan. In the same year, Kruger created the second iteration of her Windows series. This time, her images were accompanied by text that openly criticized commercialism and capitalism.

Barbara Kruger’s works explores some of the most pressing issues in our society, including issues of gender, race, and violence against women. Kruger uses visual irony in all of her artwork, not just when she photographs advertisements from fashion magazines. Her visual irony can be seen in her paintings, sculptures, and installations, as well as in her photographs. Kruger uses visual irony to communicate messages about how society’s values are often contradictory and dehumanizing.