For more than four decades Barbara Kruger has produced the most trenchant examples of feminist art, superimposing witty texts on purloined images, hoisting the everyday assumptions of patriarchy and plutocracy on their own petards. She has done this seriously playful work at every scale, from matchbook covers to giant billboards, and across many types of media, including blunt photomontages and immersive screen-and-audio installations. Classic pieces like her Untitled (Your body is a battleground)—in which this phrase is placed in bold white type over a repurposed photo of a female face—continue to circulate with fresh meaning. Last year she had copies of a 1991 version of this work pasted on the streets of Szczecin, Poland, in response to restrictive new abortion laws there. Always alert to questions of audience and venue, Kruger forever seeks new ways to intervene in the public sphere, drawing political debate into artistic practice and vice versa. All this is made abundantly clear in her current retrospective—“Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You.”—at the Art Institute of Chicago, which will travel to Los Angeles and New York next year.
Foster is an art critic and historian and a professor at Princeton University
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