Barbara Kruger: Serpentine Gallery
Barbara Kruger presents Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You, her first solo institutional exhibition in London in 23 years, at Serpentine South and in the public realm. The exhibition opened on February 1 and will be on view through March 17, 2024.
American born artist, Barbara Kruger (b. 1945), is one of those artists whose work you know and love, even if you didn’t know you knew it. For over a half century, Kruger’s text and image-based works have been a part of the social fabric in political and cultural ways, and she has used the power of words and imagery to cut into our contemporary culture. Often using the language and mechanics of advertising, graphic design and magazines, she puts into play issues around gender, class and capitalism through her smart, witty and pointed artwork.
Her exhibition at the Serpentine, Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You, is an adaption of the exhibition organized by The Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Many of the works on view have never before been seen outside of the US and in many cases, she has adapted them for this exhibition. The exhibition includes installations, moving image works and multiple soundscapes installed across the Serpentine building, and into the outside world through banners, electric taxis and on large-scale immersive wraparound screens. Kruger’s seemingly wise, intuitive, playful, at times sarcastic (perhaps) but always on point artworks will make their voice heard across London for the 6-week exhibition run.
On view will be several of her iconic pieces that have been reconfigured in recent years as video works, including Untitled (I shop therefore I am) (1987/2019) and Untitled (Your body is a battleground) (1989/2019), the latter of these two as topical today as it was in 1989, when she created it for the 1989 Women’s March on Washington in support of reproductive freedom. Kruger states that, “It would be great if my work became archaic, if the issues that they try to present, the commentary that I am trying to suggest was no longer pertinent. Unfortunately, that is not the case at this point.” Kruger has seamlessly kept current with the times, her imagery and words and visual approach can connect with any generation. A site-specific work, Untitled (That’s the way we do it) (2011/2020), wraps all the walls of the first gallery and reflects the artist’s embrace of digital and commercial appropriations of her work that have been posted online. She has also done several TikTok related works. The immersive three-channel video installation, Untitled (No Comment), 2020, presents short snippets of footage found on social media platforms along with the artist’s work directly addressing viewers with questions, statements and quotes by French philosopher and writer, Voltaire and American rapper, Kendrik Lamar.
Kruger states in an interview with Serpentine artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist, “I try to make work about how we are to one another and that means how we respect one another, how we detest one another, our adorations, our contempt, the centuries of worship and subjugation of brutality and kindness. It may sound cheesy but in fact, I have no patience with people when they say they’re shocked. Nobody should be shocked by anything considering the histories of what we’ve done to one another. That’s true in terms of leaders; it’s true whether we believe or whether we doubt, and you don’t even have to get into specifics – we see it acting over the centuries in so many ways.”
In addition to other sound works, there will be an audio chorus of greetings, emotions and sentiments that address visitors throughout the building. Thanks to the collaboration with the non profit organization Outernet Arts, Kruger’s work will be displayed on the world’s largest wrap-around public screens in central London between March 4-May 20, 2024.
The Serpentine edition was curated by the artist in close collaboration with Natalia Grabowska, Curator at Large, Architecture and Site-specific Projects, and produced by Brittany Stewart, Creative Producer and Mike Gaughan, Gallery Manager.
Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You is on view through May 4th, 2024