Untitled (You Rule by Pathetic Display), 1982
Barbara Kruger (United States, born 1945)
Photo-offset lithograph, serigraph
73 x 49 inches
Art Acquisition Fund 1986-36-1
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Barbara Kruger attended Syracuse University and Parsons School of Design. Her early experience in advertising and design for publications such as Mademoiselle and Aperture is readily apparent in her later art. In this example, Kruger combines text and image to incite the viewer. In contrast to her contemporary Jenny Holzer, who uses text alone, Kruger juxtaposes well-known phrases and appropriated image in a style reminiscent of Dada photomontage, but with a seamless presentation and a feminist political agenda.
Like advertisements, Kruger's posters are easily produced and displayed; her work has appeared not only in private galleries and museums but also on billboards, where it is available to a wider audience. Kruger incriminates the viewer by addressing him or her directly ("You rule by pathetic display"). In this way she prompts the questions "Who rules?" and "Who wields the knife?"
In other untitled works, such as those presenting the phrases "I am your immaculate conception," "Your gaze hits the side of my face," and "We will no longer be your favorite disappearing act," images and words suggest gender relations in which "I," "my," and "we" appear to be female, while "your" is male. The text allows her audience, both male and female, to try on the roles themselves.
Text by Amy M. Kuhl Cox, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008