A portrait of Barbara Kruger, popular culture, words and captivating images

Meet visual artist Barbara Kruger. Her combination of image and jarring text has permeated popular culture.

Picturing Barbara Kruger is a five-minute portrait of the highly influential American artist. Directed by Pippa Bianco, the film shows a montage of Kruger’s portfolio as she narrates her process and history. Kruger’s narration is heard over a remix of Kanye West’s “Blood on the Leaves,” produced by Nicolaas Jaar. His remix strips down the vocals and emphasises the piano loops and horns. Kruger is said to have specially requested the Kanye West remix.

The short film sees the artist talking about art made in the late 1970s, after working on magazines for 12 years, first as a designer at Mademoiselle, then as a picture editor at House and Gardens. Her experience working as a graphic designer in magazines influenced her artistic practice. 

“What I realised is that my job as a designer pretty quickly morphed into my work as an artist,” says Kruger.

Kruger is known for her appropriation of photographs and texts. She alters existing images from newspapers and magazines and spreads big bold aphorisms, questions, and slogans over them. Her work uses a jarring palette of red, white, and black to examine skewed representations of reality, value, materialism and consumerism.

Her silkscreens printed in the 80s encapsulate the era of "Reaganomics" with tongue-in-cheek one-liners such as “I shop therefore I am” and “Your body is a battleground".

“I work with pictures and words because I think they have the ability to tell us and remind us where we’ve come from and where we’re going,” says Kruger. “They have powers and pleasures and desires and disgusts.”

In recent years Barbara Kruger has extended her body of work, creating public installations of her work in galleries, museums, municipal buildings, train stations, and parks, as well as on buses and billboards around the world.

The short documentary made its world premiere at SXSW Film Festival two years ago after it was shown at the ART+FILM Gala. Bianco is also a writer on the upcoming Bleed for This, a film based on the true story of world champion boxer Vinny Pazienza.

You can watch the film on Vimeo.

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