Barbara Kruger makes her first outing with David Zwirner Gallery this summer, marking her inaugural show with the exhibitor three years after announcing she was joining the mega-gallery. Spanning the gallery’s three locations on West 19th Street in New York, the show is a monumental review of her work, and quite a timely one. Kruger powerfully and directly engages with viewers through a distinctive visual language, utilizing images, text, and technology as tools of communication to reveal and question established power structures and social constructs, challenging power structures through their direct address.
The exhibition features nine large-scale video works and installations, as well as sound installations and vinyl wallpaper, that not only reaffirm the cultural prominence of Kruger’s iconic visual language but reveal the radical inventiveness and lasting relevance of her incisive work with pictures and words. A number of the works on view reconfigure in new digital formats some of the most well-known examples from Kruger’s oeuvre, transforming these previously static images into dynamic video works that engage with the visual paradigm of the current moment. In 2019 the artist began creating a series of animated “replays,” each one augmented with striking sound effects, in which she translates her iconic pasteup collages from the 1980s to this new format. Five of Kruger’s replays will be on view: Untitled (I shop therefore I am) (1987/2019), Untitled (Your body is a battleground) (1989/2019), Untitled (Admit nothing/Blame everyone/Be bitter) (1987/2020), Untitled (Our Leader) (1987/2020), and Untitled (Remember me) (1988/2020).
It’s hard to ignore the impact weight and directness that Kruger’s works carry, a striking, stark call-out towards ingrained systems of power and oppression, especially with Your body is a battleground, a work on view just days after that Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, putting into question one again the question of a woman’s bodily autonomy, and forcing difficult questions about American politics back into the light. Posed here, against the warnings and direct exhortations of Kruger’s work, the challenges of modern discourse are brought into an equally bright spotlight.
The artist’s work is on view through August 5th.
– D. Creahan
David Zwirner [Exhibition Site]