Barbara Kruger (born January 26, 1945) is an American conceptual artist. Much of her work consists of black-and-white photographs overlaid with declarative captions in white-on-red.
After attending Syracuse University, the School of Visual Arts, and studying art and design with Diane Arbus at Parson’s School of Design in New York, Kruger obtained a design job at Condé Nast Publications. Working for Mademoiselle Magazine, she was quickly promoted to head designer. Later, she worked as a graphic designer, art director, and picture editor in the art departments at House and Garden, Aperture, and other publications. This background in design is evident in the work for which she is now internationally renowned.
She layers found photographs from existing sources with pithy and aggressive text that involves the viewer in the struggle for power and control that her captions speak to. In their trademark black letters against a slash of red background, some of her instantly recognizable slogans read “I shop therefore I am,” and “Your body is a battleground". Much of her text questions the viewer about feminism, classicism, consumerism, and individual autonomy and desire, although her black-and-white images are culled from the mainstream magazines that sell the very ideas she is disputing.
Kruger applies semiotics to her work as an analysis of popular culture. Much of her work is not just a simple comment on the nature of mass media culture, rather her work describes the relationship between the concepts of elite and popular culture. She investigates the social relations of power through the power of the word. She pairs these words with a photograph, and both the photograph and the words are meant to challenge the viewer.