Go See – New York: Barbara Kruger at Mary Boone through May 1st 2010

April 22nd, 2010

Installation view:
The Globe Shrinks
(2010) four-screen digital video installation, via Mary Boone Gallery

Currently on view at Mary Boone Gallery, through May 1st, is “The Globe Shrinks,” a playful and seductive new video installation by Conceptual artist Barbara Kruger.  The artist is best known for her confrontational slogans paired with images, but her recent video work finds a new home in the gallery, where a 12-minute, 44-second looped video plays on four channels surrounding the room.

Installation view: The Globe Shrinks [for those who own it], via Mary Boone Gallery

More text and images after the jump…

According to the show’s press release, the installation advances the artist’s “engagement with the kindness and brutality of the everyday, the collision of declaration and doubt, the duet of pictures and words, the resonance of direct address, and the unspoken in every conversation.”

The projections interact with each other and the viewer in various ways: in one section, a fan blows a woman’s hair from across the room; in another, two men tell jokes to each other, only their mouths in view.  One vignette depicts a driver talking on her cell phone as the driver behind her laments the slow speed of her driving.  In a seamless transition to the opposite walls, the video shifts to show the man aggressively passing the woman.

Installation view: The Globe Shrinks, via Mary Boone Gallery

At times we are spectators: observing, laughing, crying, our degree of distance constantly changing. At other times we are deeply involved. In perhaps the most brutal vignette, a shaky cam in slow-mo depicts only a grey wall, moving. It makes us feel disoriented, as though we are knocked onto the ground. The next cut reveals a violent scene, where young men are indeed beating someone on the floor. This someone is out of view, and we come to realize are that person, and we are surrounded, the subject of humiliation. “FEAR IT,” the projection instructs us.

Installation view: The Globe Shrinks, via Mary Boone Gallery

Installation still: The Globe Shrinks, via Mary Boone Gallery

Then we are left in the dark, and a quiet male voice speaks directly to us: “I’ve got you where I want you.  Here, in the dark.  Where you’ve always been, out of it, in your own pathetic bubble,” he tells us in a half-whisper. Later, he continues “This is just between us. It’s not easy for me to say this, but I’ve always felt so close to you,” he reassures. Kruger is mocking the viewer, soothing us after the brutality of the preceding scene, taunting us with an impossible intimacy.

In the most obvious nod to the art world, we observe an interview with an artist. The shots switch rapidly from one wall to another, making it impossible to keep up with the conversation. The viewer twists and turns in their seat, spectators of a hyperactive tennis match in which we are perpetually losing track of the score. “I make work about people. I make work with people,” says the photographer. “I’m interested in kindness and brutality. Know what I mean?”

“No, not really,” responds the female interviewer. “What does it mean to be interested in kindness and brutality?” “I want to show how [people] love and hate and eat and dance and cry,” he answers. “It’s incredibly opportunistic,” she retorts. “Absolutely,” he admits. “I’m interested in a kind of positive opportunism.” Large words reading “SHAME IT” flash across the screen and we are left to draw our own conclusions.


Installation still: The Globe Shrinks, via Mary Boone Gallery

In her review of the show, “Kruger World,” Linda Yablonsky writes, “Balancing self-possession with self-doubt and rage with tenderness, Kruger’s art does exactly what one of her subtitles says: it show us to ourselves. The globe may shrink for those who own it, as another phrase puts it, but Kruger’s perfect calibration of life’s crueler ironies performs a kind of miracle, allowing the blind to see all.”

Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1945, Kruger graduated from Syracuse University and Parsons School of Design. The artist lives in New York City and Los Angeles. Since the 1980s, Kruger has shown in museums and galleries across the globe. Awarded the honor of the Golden Lion award, Kruger won the prize for lifetime achievement at the 51st Venice Biennale. Her recent solo shows include London’s Sprüth Magers Gallery (2009), Stockholm’s Moderna Museet (2008), and New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art (2000).  The artist has also recently been invited to create a site-specific temporary work for the High Line. The outdoor installation will be on view this summer.

– J. Lindblad

Related Links:
Barbara Kruger at Mary Boone Gallery [Exhibition Website]
Artifacts: Kruger World [T Magazine]