No promise of 'forever' in Barbara Kruger's provocative show in Seoul

American conceptual artist Barbara Kruger’s work at Amorepacific Museum of Art in Yongsan forces us to re-contemplate cultural constructs and stereotypes.

by Sukanya Garg Dec 11, 2019

American conceptual artist and collagist Barbara Kruger's first solo exhibition FOREVER features 44 artworks developed over the course of 40 years, since the 1980s until the present. She is known for her layered photographs with incisive bold language.

Kruger, who entered the world of designing and advertising soon after graduating from the Parson’s School of Design in New York, was deeply influenced by her formative years in design that subsequently filtered down her artistic practice. Her visual language acquired a distinct form, which while influenced by advertising paraphernalia, consistently combined and contrasted text and images. Her black and white works with bold text framed in red caught everyone’s attention in 1981.

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Plenty should be enough), 2018, Digital print on vinyl wallpaper, 600 x 2,170 cm | Barbara Kruger | STIRworld
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Plenty should be enough), 2018, Digital print on vinyl wallpaper, 600 x 2,170 cm Image Credit: JEONG Hee-seong, courtesy of Amorepacific Museum of Art

The language and messages of her works were often provocative, and she used personal pronouns in her work to attack cultural constructs around feminism, identity, sexuality and autonomy and societal stereotypes.

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Forever), 2017, Digital print on vinyl wallpaper, dimensions variable (570 x 2,870 x 1,830 cm) | Barbara Kruger | STIRworld
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Forever), 2017, Digital print on vinyl wallpaper, dimensions variable (570 x 2,870 x 1,830 cm) Image Credit: JEONG Hee-seong, courtesy of Amorepacific Museum of Art

The exhibition at the Amorepacific Museum of Art in Yongsan includes various forms of her works including large-scale installations and visuals. The artist also unveils her first Hangeul piece for the first time in the world at the exhibition; Untitled (충분하면만족하라) (2019). The work was specially designed for the Museum. In addition, the exhibition will feature 16 pieces of the early collage series of the 1980s such as Your body is a battleground and We don't need another hero.

Barbara Kruger - Forever, installation view 1 | Barbara Kruger | STIRworld
Barbara Kruger - Forever, installation view 1 Image Credit: JEONG Hee-seong, courtesy of Amorepacific Museum of Art

Another work exhibited in the show, Untitled (Plenty should be enough) is her attempt to refocus attention towards the consumerism and desire that is consuming us. While the work is installed in both English and Korean, the large-scale display and bold lettering create a sense of urgency enveloping the museum space. The title of the exhibition Untitled (FOREVER), 2017, plays with the architecture of the museum space, encapsulating one of its biggest rooms in text. The walls, floor and ceiling then are wrapped in text, bombarding the viewer with an overall image that forces them to think about the issues she brings up. This act of provoking her viewers to reconsider the impact of their own actions and the environment they live in is also the underlying intention of the vinyl print Untitled (The latest version of the truth), 2018.

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Project for Dazed and Confused) (APMA) | Barbara Kruger | STIRworld
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Project for Dazed and Confused) (APMA) Image Credit: JEONG Hee-seong, courtesy of Amorepacific Museum of Art

Kruger’s most recent work in the exhibition references the manufacturing of facts in our times. Her works, then, raise questions on the framework of thoughts that build the foundation of our way of thinking, such as universal notion, belief or stereotype, enabling the viewers to think independently.

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Are We Having Fun yet?), Collage (Colour), 21.1 x 14.4 cm, 8 5/16 x 5 11/16 inches | Barbara Kruger | STIRworld
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Are We Having Fun yet?), Collage (Colour), 21.1 x 14.4 cm, 8 5/16 x 5 11/16 inches Image Credit: JEONG Hee-seong, courtesy of Amorepacific Museum of Art

Because of her use of language, and her billboard and advertisement style, Kruger has often been grouped with post-modern feminist artists such as Jenny Holzer, Sherrie Levine, Martha Rosler, and Cindy Sherman. However, her work was displayed not only in prominent art museums and galleries, but also on billboards, bus cards, magazines, newspapers, posters, parks, and train station platforms. Additionally, Kruger is the recipient of several recognitions and awards. She was awarded the MOCA Award to Distinguished Women in the Arts in 2001 by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Leone d’Oro for lifetime achievement in 2005 among others.

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (The_latest_version_of_the_truth), 2018, Digital print on vinyl, 226.1 x 173cm | Barbara Kruger | STIRworld
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (The_latest_version_of_the_truth), 2018, Digital print on vinyl, 226.1 x 173cm Image Credit: JEONG Hee-seong, courtesy of Amorepacific Museum of Art

Kruger’s exhibition, subsequently, also celebrates the first anniversary of the Amorepacific Museum of Art in Yongsan, Seoul. It is on view till December 29, 2019.

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About Author

Sukanya Garg

Sukanya Garg

Garg is an artist and writer with a Master's degree in Public Policy from Duke University, USA. She has been involved in research, planning and execution of gallery exhibitions and external projects in collaboration with curators. Her writing has been published in several art magazines, journals and as part of curatorial notes and catalogues, and her work has been showcased at multiple exhibitions.

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