Barbara Kruger has been raging against power structures and social constructs since at least the 1970s and, as this stunning exhibition of recent works in Chelsea hammers home, her iconic, type-heavy collages feel as vital and relevant as ever.
The most glaring, and depressing, example on this specific week is Kruger's iconic "Untitled (Your body is a battleground)," but unsubtle references to battles not yet won abound.
"Our exhibition has all the defining qualities of a great Kruger work," Bellatrix Hubert, a senior partner and global artistic director at David Zwirner, told Gothamist. "There's direct address, humor, subtle shifts in meaning, brilliant editing, strong pace and dynamic soundtrack – she confronts us with all the horrors of our society. So little has changed."
The exhibition is Kruger's first at Zwirner, and the global gallery powerhouse pulled out all the stops, turning over the entire space on West 19th Street — usually housing three separate shows — to the artist.
Anchoring the exhibition are nine large installations, including a major new work from 2020, "Untitled (No Comment)," which assaults the senses with video, sound and text involving lazy memes, selfies, cats in toilets, and other standard methods of internet communication. It's a wild journey.
Kruger has also digitally reconfigured several of her classic works, adding both video and sound to pieces such as Untitled (I shop therefore I am) from 1987. At certain intervals, the giant LED screens come alive and cycle through a series of descontructive edits. So, "I shop therefore I am," becomes, "I need therefore I shop" becomes, eventually, "I die therefore I was."
This latter installation features hundreds of analog collages on a dozen or so panels around the room as well, where Kruger's rage, intelligence and wit really come to the fore.
There's also a hilarious piece here mocking the streetwear company Supreme, which stole her signature look and has since tried to sue other businesses for copying them.
"The exhibition was a challenge as it's a full on sensorial experience with video, LED screens, animation, text, wall coverings," said Hubert. "Each artwork is in sync, starting with the soundtrack on the sidewalk. But we had fun. The staff here was beyond excited to work with such a legend. Barbara has that great NYC sense of humor and a precision when it comes to installing art that inspired us all."
And if, after going to Zwirner, you want more Kruger, on July 16, MoMA is unveiling a site-specific installation by the artist called "Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You."
The Barbara Kruger exhibition at Zwirner opens Thursday evening (the reception is from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.) and runs through August 12. David Zwirner is located at 519, 525, and 533 West 19th Street, and is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Update: Following the initial publication of this story, the Zwirner Gallery updated its hours of operation. It is now open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.