WOW! – Work of the Week – Robert Indiana – Liberty ’76





Robert Indiana
Liberty ’76
1974-75
Screenprint
39 7/8 x 36 in.
Edition of 10 Artist Proofs (A.P.)
Pencil signed, dated and numbered

About the work:

“The American dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”
– James Truslow Adams, 1931

The July 4th, 1776, American Declaration of Independence proclaims that “all men are created equal” with the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This founding document, outlining the set of ideals of our nation has been the basis of the national ethos known as The American Dream. This Dream has attracted people from all over the world, lured by the promise of a better way of life, and is deeply rooted in the collective psyche of the American population. 

Many artists have been inspired by this great dream, however, Robert Indiana distinguishes himself from his peers through a highly original body of work that explores this American Identity. He addresses important social and political issues, incorporating profound historical and literary references into his works. This is why, in 1974, Stephen Lion, an arts and design consultant, approached Indiana to participate in a tribute portfolio for the 1976 American Bicentennial celebrations. Along with 11 other of his contemporaries such as Alex Katz, Ed Ruscha and Larry Rivers, Indiana would take part in the “Kent Bicentennial Portfolio Spirit of Independence.”

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Robert Indiana’s Liberty ’76 from the Kent portfolio. 

A self proclaimed “American painter of signs,” Indiana was introduced to Hard Edge painting by the already well-known painter Ellsworth Kelly. Robert Indiana forged his unique style working with a minimal palette of flat color and using Kelly’s technique of isolating elements from one another. The geometric figures, which, individually seem flat, combined, accomplish great dimension. The placement of each shape is complimented with the use of pure color that gives depth and a sense of motion to his work. 

In Liberty ’76, Indiana delivers, through vernacular signage, numbers and symbols a dazzling composition reflecting quintessential Americana in his trademark style. The stars, stripes and a large, red number “76” reference freedom and liberty and pop to the foreground. His bold style can at first glance seem simple, however, this is misleading. He is an underrated and undervalued artistic genius, who created his art with masterful skill and perfection, understanding and manipulating the power of shape and color to create perfectly balanced compositions such as Liberty ’76

Liberty ’76 perfectly captures the symbolisms of the American Dream and American Identity with a direct and positive outlook. Indiana himself would say: “Pop Art is the American Dream, optimistic, generous and naive!” It is, however, difficult to place Indiana’s body of work into a preset artistic classification because his art transcends and bridges many artistic movements. His work is simultaneously Pop, Hard-Edge, Geometric, Color Field, Textual, Minimalist and Reductive, and therein lies his brilliance. He also provides an example of work that is both deeply personal and universal. His works reflect events of the times while also carrying messages to future generations, adding the element of activism to his oeuvre. He has paved the way for many contemporary artists such as Jenny Holzer and Shepard Fairey, among many others. 

Of the 125 Kent Portfolio sets created, 110 were gifted to American museums, 4 to the American Federation of the Arts and 3 to the United States Information Agency. The piece featured at Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art is a rare Artist Proof from a small edition run of 10. 

WOW! – Work of the Week – John Baldessari – I Saw It





John Baldessari
I Saw It
1997
Lithograph
17 3/8 x 14 3/8 in.
Edition of 100
Pencil signed, dated and numbered

About the work:

‘Why not give people what they understand most, which is the written word and the photograph.’ John Baldessari

For decades, John Baldessari has pioneered “conceptual art,” an art where it’s the idea that matters over the traditional cannons of aesthetics, techniques and materials. A chief claim of conceptualism is that skill is irrelevant and the idea from the artist’s head becomes art in the mind of the viewers as they try to figure out what they are seeing. The style is accepted as the extreme end of the highly intellectual avant-garde movement, which encompasses Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and Pop.

As one of the most influential artist’s working today, Baldessari has successfully removed his own hand from his works in order to couple text with pre-existing images. His commercial, static style allows the unornamented text and appropriated image to impact the viewer without distraction. Images and texts behave in similar ways, both using formulas to convey their messages. The juxtaposition of both narratives in Baldessari’s work acts as a dual and complimentary means of communication, very similar to the methods used in the press. However, contrary to the press, Baldessari’s unique interplay between two kinds of information is amusing, often creating riddles or jokes. 

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is I Saw It, which is a prime example of Baldessari’s tongue-in-cheek humor. 

In this work, the artist pairs the image of a light fixture with the all caps words “I SAW IT.” The image is not an illustration of the text below it. The text is instead used to make the full range of the image available to the viewer. It is only upon reading the text that the light fixture loses its common identity and function to become a UFO. The humor in Baldessari’s work is a result of the subjection of ordinary everyday objects which take on unexpected meanings and messages. 

John Baldessari is able to look beyond what is there, which opens the possibility for others to see things they normally wouldn’t. He avoids “good taste” and allows us to smile, if not laugh, through providing a new context. Just as the best humor is based on the unpredictable, the purpose of art, Baldessari has said, is to keep us “perpetually off-balance.”

Over the course of his career, Baldessari has been challenging audiences to reconsider the nature of art, with wit, humor and a captivating visual sense. And although he has played a crucial role in such major movements as conceptual art and appropriation art, perhaps his greatest contribution is “leveling the playing field,” encouraging viewers to take an active role in the construction of meaning.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Robert Motherwell – Harvest with Blue Bottom





Robert Motherwell
Harvest with Blue Bottom
1973
Lithograph with Collage
36 x 18 in.
Edition of 55
Pencil signed and numberedAbout the work:

Robert Motherwell is known as one of the most important and influential artists of the 20th century. In 1940, as a promising young painter, he moved from California to New York City, joined a group of artists (including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko) and set out to change the face of American art. The artists renounced the prevalent American style, believing Realism depicted only the surface of American life. Motherwell was a key figure in the group to establish America’s first major original art style: Abstract Expressionism, or what he called the New York School, a movement that would place New York at the center of the international art world.

Strongly influenced by the European Surrealists, many of whom had emigrated to New York during World War II, the Abstract Expressionists sought to create essential images that revealed emotional truth and authenticity of feeling through the removal of the inessentials and showing only what was necessary.

Motherwell who was a fervent admirer of Matisse became a colorist seeking out earthy ochres, brilliant yellows and oranges, blues and violets. He also adopted the Matissian technique of collage, the most radical form of drawing developed in the twentieth century.

Motherwell’s collage works were not simply aesthetically pleasing forms and colors, but related to the world in some way. In his collages, he took a personal, lyrical approach, combining fragments of colored paper, labels, letters and stamps in evocative compositions. Incorporating material from his studio such as cigarette packets and labels, the works ultimately became records of his daily life.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Harvest with Blue Bottom, from the Summer Light series, in which Motherwell created elegantly playful collages. 

The Summer of Light series was made up of some of the most elaborate print-work that Motherwell produced during his career. Each piece was realized using lithography, collage and hand-ripping of different types of paper.  

Continuing a tradition established by Picasso and Braque of incorporating the detritus of daily life and its simple pleasures, the Summer Light series from 1973 integrates two of Motherwell’s favorite pastimes– drinking and smoking. 

The title of this image, Harvest with Blue Bottom, derives from the collaged element of the Ernte 23 cigarette label. “Ernte” is the German translation for harvest. The Summer Light series features six images of the Ernte 23 label and four of Château Latour wine labels. Practically, these materials were laying about his studio and were immediate and on hand, but invariably they were autobiographical, serving as a kind of documentation of his daily life and habits.

Although he is by no means an ”autobiographical” artist, it’s in his collages that fragments of his life reveal themselves. While viewing a collage retrospective of his in the 1970’s, he was ”astounded that, like Proust eating the madeleine, in these abstract compositions all kinds of personal memories would surface that I’d completely forgotten about – not about painting, but about my daily life, my marriage, where I was living at the time, or who I was particularly friendly with and so on. But the autobiography in them wouldn’t be clear to an outside person.” 

Beyond autobiographical, the Summer of Light series and all of the artist’s collage work take on the status of the artist’s own diary evoking intimate memories. 

 

WOW! – Work of the Week – Ed Ruscha – Stranger





Ed Ruscha
Stranger
1983
Lithograph
30 X 22 1/2 in.
Bon à Tirer (B.A.T.), from an Edition of 7
Pencil signed and annotated B.A.T.

About the work:

“Huh? Wow!”

Language has often be inserted into visual art, yet no other artist uses it the way Ed Ruscha (roo-SHAY) does. His works are not pictures of words but words treated as visual compositions. “I like the idea of a word becoming a picture, almost leaving its body, then coming back and becoming a word again,” he once said.

Through his textual works, the artist has made his mark in a universe somewhere between Pop and Conceptual art. Over his six-decade-long career, critics have always had trouble classifying Ruscha because his oeuvre doesn’t fall into any predisposed category. As with Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, his East Coast counterparts, Ed Ruscha’s artistic training in Los Angeles was rooted in commercial art. Ruscha’s style and subject matter, however, and the deadpan humor with which he executed them truly set him apart. 

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Ruscha’s Stranger, dating from 1983. It is a prime example of the techniques and style of the artist, and is part of a series of artworks of words over sunsets and night skies (which many refer to as landscapes) that Rsucha started producing in the early 80’s.

This particular example is the B.A.T. (bon à tirer, which translates as “good to pull”). The B.A.T. is the final trial proof, the one that the artist has approved, telling the printer that this is the way he wants the edition to look. Bon à tirer means ready for press.  

The edition size of this work is extremely small of only 7 pieces produced. To have the B.A.T. is very rare.  

Set against the backdrop of a dark night, the word “stranger” is depicted in an all-caps lettering of Ed Ruscha’s own invention named ”Boy Scout Utility Modern.” The font is a boldface print type with squared-off curves. Inspired by the truncated edges of the Hollywood sign, the typeface is transformed as letters take the place of characters on a stage, hovering in middle distance with a three-dimensionality all their own. The result? Images that land somewhere between clarity and mystery, symbol and signifier, art and poetry.

In using “stranger” as a visual, with a newly created typeface, the artist glorified it as an object rather than a mere piece of text, thus dignifying “stranger” as an object, bestowed with iconic status.

The influence of Hollywood and advertising are ever-present in the work of this LA artist and Stranger is no exception. This is highlighted in the way Ruscha placed his subject, covering the overall space of the plane. His bold “stranger” floats on a vast background, and mimics the opening screen of movies or fleeting glimpses of roadside billboards that must catch an audience’s attention in one compelling instant. The cinematic perspective of “Stranger” has a dramatic, raked perspective which can be traced to classic Hollywood black-and-white films. This unique diagonal positioning of the letters is disruptive and encourages the viewer to look at something ordinary in a different light. 

The words Ruscha chooses for his creations have a multiplicity of meaning, which push the viewer to consider each connotation of the word. What is the first meaning that comes to mind when faced with the word “stranger?” It can be read as either noun or adjective. This ambiguity adds to the power of the work. Ruscha has always insisted that he never intends to instruct his audience, there is no hidden agenda, leaving each of us free to interpret the word. 

Ruscha has said that “Art has to be something that makes you scratch your head,” but it doesn’t need to take itself too seriously either. His works are as playful as they are thought provoking. According to the artist, there is a simple rule for distinguishing between bad and good art. Bad art makes you say ‘Wow! Huh?’ Good art makes you say ‘Huh? Wow!’ It’s a good rule. ‘Huh? Wow!’ is most revealing when considered in terms of Ruscha’s own work. When observing his work in that context, the ‘Huh? Wow!” is what makes his art so enduringly great.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Jean Dubuffet – Arborescences I & II



Dubuffet
Arborescences I
1972
Color screenprint relief on vacuum-formed plastic
12 3/8 x 9 5/8 in.
Edition of 75
Initialed, dated and numbered in ink
 Dubuffet
 Arborescences II
1972
Color screenprint relief on vacuum-formed  plastic
12 3/8 x 9 5/8 in.
Edition of 75
 Initialed, dated and numbered in ink
About the work:

Dubuffet: the prototype of the modern artist

Although he was well-educated, Jean Dubuffet came to reject his studies. Preferring to teach himself, the artist would base much of his artistic career on the readings of Dr. Hans Prinzhorn, who drew comparisons between the art of asylum inmates and that of children. Prinzhorn believed that it was savagery, or base animal instinct, that lead to universal harmony, arguing that it was the primal instinct, not intellectual theory or analysis, that connected all living things. 

Prinzhorn’s theories spoke directly to Jean Dubuffet who disliked authority and found mainstream culture to be “asphyxiating.” Frustrated by intellectual approaches to art, Dubuffet admired and collected the artwork of outsiders. He would champion the movements of Art Brut (meaning “raw”) and Art Informel (informal), aesthetics contrary to traditional standards, much to the dismay of the art-world elite. He sought to create an art free from scholarly concerns, and as a result, his work had a tendency to look like it was made by an amateur. Despite the child-like style of his works and his general disdain for the intellectual class, he was, early-on in his career, identified as “the most original painter to have come out of the Paris School since Miró.” 

It was certainly the paradox of Dubuffet’s career that he opposed the art establishment more forcefully than any artist, yet became one of the most esteemed visual innovators of the 20th century. 

In the early 1960s, he developed a radically new, graphic style, which he called “Hourloupe,” from which, this week’s Work of the Week! WOW! Arborescences I & II stem. 

The “Hourloupe” series began in 1962 and would preoccupy the artist until his death in 1985. The inspiration came from a chance doodle Dubuffet created while on the telephone. The style was composed of black fluid lines, tangles forming cells, some of which were filled with unmixed color which he limited to red, white, black and blue. 

Ever true to his dismissal of idealistic art, the Arborescence works are marked by a rebellious attitude toward the at-the-time dominant notions of high culture and beauty. Dubuffet’s embrace of so-called “low art,” and abandonment of traditional standards lead to what he believed to be a more authentic and humanistic approach to creating images. 

Dubuffet also departed from the use of traditional medium in his works. He placed an emphasis on texture and materiality which can be seen as an insistence on reality. The two Arborescences artworks are unique in that they are 3-dimensional works, screenprinted on vacuum-formed plastic. Vacuum forming was patented in 1950 as an industrial technology. It is a version of thermoforming where a sheet is heated to form and stretch against a mold by vacuum. At the time of the creation of these artworks, this process was still new and complex. 

In the History of Art, the 20th century marked a period of dramatic and fast-paced change. Invention, innovation and rupture of inherited models allowed for profound aesthetic revolutions of which Dubuffet was a leader and pioneer. 

WOW! – Work of the Week – Kenny Scharf – Space Traveler





Kenny Scharf

Space Traveler

2011

Etching with hand-painting

45 3/4 x 55 5/8 in.

Edition of 20

Pencil signed and numbered

About the work:

Spontaneity and fun are the heart of Kenny Scharf’s artwork

Kenny Scharf moved to New York City in the late 1970s, and his work embodies the spirit of that time. It was a “golden age” that continued through the early 1980s, in which Pop, New Wave, graffiti and the urban art scene collided. During this explosive period the artist first learned to use spray paint, and master this newfound medium. He would bomb the length of Manhattan between his studio at PS1 in Queens and his home in the East Village, leaving the avenues covered with his characters.

Like his contemporaries Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny was inspired by graffiti’s freedom and the direct connection street art gave him to people outside of the art world. “It was a natural reaction for us to take it to the streets and the nightclubs and let loose and not take yourself too seriously because that is stifling!” Kenny is driven by his belief that art should be appreciated for the experience. This is particularly obvious through his use of images of cartoonish figures.

This week’s Work Of the Week! WOW! is Space Traveler by Kenny Scharf. The piece reflects the impulse and speed of the artist working in the street, and the signature cartoon-like character whizzing through a cosmic galaxy is instantly recognizable. This trademark Cosmic Cavern image, created with what could be Day-Glo  or bright colored paint is a style that the artist started experimenting with in the 80’s.

The cartoon images expertly bring popular culture into the fine arts, and Scharf has been pushing the line between high and low art since his days spray-painting lower Manhattan. His true genius, however, lies in his ability to create a distinct, otherworldly color palette, as if looking inside a tremendous bubble made of candy colored beings. The work is playful, but make no mistake: This isn’t child’s play.

Scharf calls his art Pop Surrealism: “Surrealism is about the unconscious, and I feel my work is about the unconscious. The images come from the unconscious except that my unconscious is filled with pop imagery. My unconscious is pop, so therefore the art would be Pop-Surrealism.”

Space Traveler is a very large work.  It is an etching with hand painting.  A very small edition of only 20 pieces, each piece is unique.  The only printed part of the work is the black.  Every color on each different piece is all hand painted.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Daniel Arsham, Future Relic 03





Daniel Arsham
Future Relic 03
2015
Plaster and broken glass
5 1/2 x 5 x 2 1/2 in.
Edition of 400
Signed and numbered on label on box

About the work:

 

Remember the Future

“The future is something that contains the everyday – it contains the now. All the things we see here, in this space, will exist in the future.” Daniel Arsham

 

Obsessed with the fact that technological items become obsolete and are continuously replaced at an alarming rate, artist Daniel Arsham has created a complete mythology surrounding his “Future Relic” fossils. 

 

It was during a trip to Easter Island that Daniel Arsham came up with the idea of an archaeological excavation applied to the future. His “Future Relic” series centers around a world many years down the line, in which a major and transformative ecological shift has occurred.  

 

To create his fossils, the artist casts already forgotten pieces of technology to look like fragile artifacts. They are covered with tiny crack formations and have crumbling surfaces, disintegrating from disuse. All nine sculptures of the series are created from technological devices of the twentieth century.  Arsham says “the choice of the objects is very specific, I’m looking for things that are iconic that many people would recognize.”

 

The sculptures spurred Arsham to make video work based on the same premise, and thus his Future Relic film series was born. Each launch of a new “Future Relic” sculpture is augmented by a short movie. Through his use of film, the artist is able to build and share his complete story of the future surrounding these archeological artifacts. The sci-fi art series has featured many well-known actors such as Mahershala Ali, Arturo Castro, James Franco, Ronald Guttman, Matthew Maher, and Ethan Suplee

 

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Future Relic 03. It is a plaster and broken glass cast Clock. Using a traditional mechanical alarm clock as the design mold, the plaster-clad object is representative of how the things we accrue ultimately perish. This launch, in 2015, was connected to his movie premier of the same name at the TriBeCa Film Festival. The movie was also presented at the 68th Cannes Film Festival in France. 

 

Through this chapter of “Future Relic 03,” we are able to visually understand the future that Arsham has imagined. The world as we know it today does not exist. “We all moved inland as the water rose” explains the protagonist Lona Rey. A cratered moon hangs in the sky, but with a sizable rectangular section excavated from its surface. The star of the movie is Juliette Lewis, a young woman searching for her scientist father who apparently went missing in his quest to save our Earth. About half way through the short, at minute 8:04, we see Lona as a little girl, up late at night, peering into her father’s study. On his desk, a brass Bulova mechanical alarm clock reads 8:30pm. 

 

In full commitment to the credibility of his “Future Relic” universe, Arsham has thoroughly combed through every detail. On the label of the box belonging to the artwork, he has included elements such as the excavation date and the longitude and latitude of the find. Another subtle detail that ties back into the movie is the faded logo on the box which is from the translator device Lona uses to speak with an Owl. 

Clock Packaging 2  Clock Packaging 1 3 Clock Label
     

Daniel Arsham is a true multi-disciplinarian. His work spans art, filmmaking, design, architecture and performance, with powerful themes woven into his narrative.

 

A link to the Future Relic 03 movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWvnC0mGOGk

WOW! – Work of the Week – Victor Vasarely, Tri-Vega





Victor Vasarely

Tri-Vega

1975

Silkscreen on Arches Paper

33 1/4 x 30 1/8 in.

Pencil signed and numbered

“Movement does not rely on composition nor a specific subject, but on the apprehension of the act of looking, which by itself is considered as the only creator.”
—From Victor Vasarely’s Yellow Manifesto

We don’t always see what we think we see.

Saying that Victor Vasarely was ahead of his time is an understatement. Art historians credit Vasarely with creating some of the earliest examples of Op Art in the 1930s. He experimented with techniques decades before the establishment of the movement in the 60s, and is widely regarded as the “Father of the Op Art movement,”

“Op Art” is short for Optical Art, which was coined by Time Magazine in a 1964. It is a style known for creating optical illusions from extremely precise repeating patterns, interlocking shapes and vivid yet strictly defined color palettes.

The genre marked the first time in Art History that the Theory of Visual Perception would be systematically studied and applied by artists. In this theory, psychologists distinguish between two types of processes in perception; the first caused by our purely physical optical sense and the second by our subjectively learned world view. Op Art was therefore driven by artists who were interested in investigating various perceptual effects; effects that confuse and fascinate.

In 1968, Victor Vasarely started work on his hugely popular Vega Series. Vega is the brightest star in the constellation of Lyra and the fifth brightest star in the night sky. In this series, the artist manipulated the lines of square grids to create the illusion of bulges and depressions in perspective distortion.

This week’s Work Of the Week! WOW! is Tri-Vega.

In this work, Vasarely expertly draws his viewer into his geometric cosmos. In a grid-like composition, the picture plane appears to warp. A central form swells as a pronounced spherical distortion, and the viewer is given the feeling that the orb is either trying to break out of the surface or recede back inwards. In this case ambiguity arises, and our eye and brain oscillate between two possibilities. 

The feeling of movement and depth are created by Vasarely’s use of lines increasing in scale towards the center of the canvas. Vasarely’s masterful use of warm and cool colors across the field also serves to provide the viewer with the feeling of kinetic energy, depth and space. These optical games physically affect the viewer.

The Vega series is arguably Vasarely’s signature work. The results are timeless, exciting and innovative as they engage and captivate the viewer with depth perception and spatial distortion.

Vasarely truly created “an art for all.” An art that the viewer can appreciate without the knowledge of art history, an art in which the final image is the product of the viewer’s own eye without contemplation.

As Vasarely stated: “What is at stake is no longer the ‘heart’ but the retina, and the connoisseur has now become a study object for experimental psychology. Harsh contrasts, the unbearable vibration of complementary colors, the flickering of linear networks and per mutated structures…all these are elements in my work whose task is no longer to plunge the viewer into a sweet melancholy but to stimulate him.”

WOW! – Work of the Week – Alexander Calder, Seascape





Alexander Calder
Seascape
c. 1960
Lithograph
16 1/4 x 17 1/4 in.
Edition of 60
Pencil signed and numbered

About the work:

Despite hailing from a lineage of sculptors, Alexander Calder did not originally intend on becoming one himself. After high school, he enrolled at the Stevens Institute of Technology and graduated in 1919 with a degree in mechanical engineering. 

In June 1922, he found work as a mechanic on the passenger ship H. F. Alexander. The ship sailed from San Francisco to New York City, and Calder slept on deck. Early one morning, as the ship was just off the Guatemalan Coast, he witnessed both the sun rising in the East and the full moon setting on the opposite horizon. He described in his autobiography, “on a calm sea, off Guatemala, I saw the beginning of a fiery red sunrise on one side and the moon looking like a silver coin on the other.” This image remained with Calder, and would appear years later in his works.

Calder is known for his sculpture, however, he was also talented painter, engraver, and printmaker. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Calder produced gouache paintings depicting the same swirling, abstract forms found in his mobiles and stabiles. Numerous lithographs were produced from these paintings, and many of these works on paper were studies for his 3-dimensional works. 

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Seascape. Seascape is almost the perfect representation of the early morning scene Calder witnessed off the Guatemalan coast in 1922. The fiery red sun that Calder never forgot was still fresh in his mind almost 4 decades later. The bold colors and flat but soft shapes are distinctly representative of Calder’s visual lexicon and it is easy to imagine the forms balancing and swaying on a mobile. 

However, if Seascape served as a study, Calder had much grander plans for it than a mobile. 

In the 60’s, Calder was invited by the Mexican Cultural Olympiad Committee to produce a monumental stabile outside the “Estadio Azteca” (Aztec Stadium) in Mexico City. At over 84 feet high, his tallest creation, “El Sol Rojo” (The Red Sun) is a 3-dimensional replica of Seascape. The sculpture has remained at the stadium since its installation, greeting fans at the 1968 Olympic games, but also those attending the 1970 and 1986 World Cup finals. 

Views from different angles:

WOW! – Work of the Week – Barbara Kruger, You’re Right and You Know It





Barbara Kruger
You’re Right and You Know it
2010
Lithograph
9 x 24 in.
Edition of 200
Pencil signed, dated and numbered on verso

About the work:

Barbara Kruger’s art is instantly recognizable – photography overlaid with colored boxes filled with white bold face text. It’s not hard to miss, it’s direct and democratic – that’s why it’s brilliant. Borrowing the visual identity of advertising and fear-mongering tabloids, Kruger spreads visual messages that question systems of power.  Using the potent weapon of pure graphics and phrases from the lexicon of thought, Kruger’s art offers up powerfully distilled messages through word and image.

Like Warhol’s pop portraits, or Lichtenstein’s teary cartoon heroines, Kruger has a style which extends into mainstream popular, underground and digital culture. However, it’s not just the aesthetic of her work that is powerful – it’s its purpose.

Bold, philosophical, radical, subversive: her art focuses on decoding the social-psychological messages embedded in popular culture. Through marrying pictures to words, Kruger raises issues of power, politics, and challenges corruption, sexism and consumerism.

Much of her work calls attention to feminism.  However, Kruger does not want to have her work solely categorized as feminist art.   She states below:

“My work always deals with issues of how we are to one another, with issues of power and control, adoration and contempt.” One thing to note in today’s era of identity politics is that Kruger doesn’t define her art as political or feminist, believing such categorizations “only work to marginalize a practice.”

Kruger also rejects the term “slogan” when it comes to the text elements of her art. Her pieces should read more like the start of dialogues rather than simple take-it-or-leave-it statements. While her phrases may be short, they invite participation, rely on us to do the intellectual legwork. She prompts us to question the systems which rule our globalized world.

This week’s “Work of the Week! WOW!” is Barbara Kruger’s You’re Right and You Know It And So Should Everyone Else

Although Barbara Kruger does not view her work as purely feminist, she is very much an advocate for women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. In this piece, a close-up of a woman’s piercing and confidant gaze is matched with the bold, caps-locked typeface that reads “You’re right and you know it and so should everyone else.” The message is simple, powerful, and inspiring, making women feel confident, working to crack that glass ceiling.

At the same time, bringing and keeping the gender issue in the political arena relevant. Like many of Barbara Kruger’s works, there are multiple messages, and multiple intentions.