Barbara Kruger: a path with words

Kruger’s MoMA commission was originally to be accompanied by an investigation organized by three museums: the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the MoMA. The New York investigation stop was at MoMA PS 1. But in the fall of 2020, PS 1 bowed out, citing a scheduling conflict caused by Covid-19. The survey of the two other museums.

And soon after, Zwirner stepped in, taking as many pieces as possible from the survey — which turned out to be 17 recent or updated works, compared to 60 in Chicago and 35 in Los Angeles. Zwirner’s accommodations are more than a little like MoMA 53rd Street and have the advantage of being single-story and free.

At Zwirner, some static texts have been reprinted larger, such as the 1994 untitled searing white-on-red piece that begins “Our people are better than your people” and follows from there (“Smarter, more powerful, more beautiful, and cleaner…”).

Multiple pieces transform past efforts via LEDs into practically new works, adding soundtracks, cascading puzzles, and entertainment value. But the technology also allows Kruger to expand his language and think out loud, which is more genuinely invigorating. The sentence “Your body is a battlefield” is replaced by the absurd “My coffee is a motorboat” and the violent “Your skin is cut”. One of the substitutions for “I shop therefore I am” could be this extreme political rallying cry: “I am therefore I hate”.

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