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Barbara Kruger, Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You
Barbara Kruger, Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You (2019)© Barbara Kruger, digital image courtesy of the artist

Diving deep into 40 years of Barbara Kruger’s radical art

A new book, Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You, gathers together four decades of provocative artwork by the seminal artist – and shows us why we need her eye on the world more than ever

Barbara Kruger has been holding the hierarchies of power to ransom with her powerful, provocative, statements since she came to prominence in the 1980s. Often recognisable for their signature white-on-red Helvetica and Futura fonts and their striking black and white imagery, her style owes a great deal to her training in design. As a designer at Condé Nast, Kruger mastered the persuasive visual language of advertising.

“One thing I learned working at magazines was that if you couldn’t get people to look at a page or a cover, then you were fired,” she told The National Gallery of Art. “It was all about how you create arresting works, and by arresting I mean stop people, even for a nano-second.” As she began experimenting with art, she harnessed this visual language to promote more subversive values, such as questioning authority, consumer culture, and inequality. 

A new book, Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You, gathers together this seminal artist’s vast body of work. From the analogue paste-ups of the 1980s to her digital works of the last two decades, the anthology traces Kruger’s evolving practice, taking in the groundbreaking artist’s many site-specific installations, works on vinyl, and multichannel videos, among many other mediums. 

Kruger’s artworks interrogate the controlling mechanisms of capitalism, consumer desire, gender and identity politics impregnated in the fabric of our daily lives. Despite having exhibited in the world’s most illustrious galleries and institutions, her work is arguably at its most dynamic and compelling when it appears in everyday spaces.

Among the first of her work to gain attention was a series of billboards challenging internalised misogyny, objectification, and women’s autonomy over their own bodies, bearing statements such as: “Your gaze hits the side of my face”, “Your body is a battleground”, and “I shop therefore I am”.

Her artwork has since found a home in many other non-traditional art spaces, such as the facades of public buildings, on public transport, and consumer goods. 

This new book has been created to accompany a large-scale exhibition scheduled to appear in key institutions across the US – beginning at the Art Institute of Chicago on September 19 2021, before moving to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2022, and ending at the Museum of Modern Art in 2023. This volume illustrates the continued resonance and percipience of her work. Four decades since she first started making art, we still need Barbara Kruger as much, if not more, than ever. 

Take a look through the gallery above for a glimpse at some of the many pioneering artworks featured in Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You.

Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You is published by Artbook and is available here