Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Your Body is a Battleground), 1989.
“Barbara Kruger was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1945. After attending Syracuse University, the School of Visual Arts, and studying art and design with Diane Arbus at Parson’s School of Design in New York, Kruger obtained a design job at Condé Nast Publications. Working for Mademoiselle Magazine, she was quickly promoted to head designer. Later, she worked as a graphic designer, art director, and picture editor in the art departments at House and Garden, Aperture, and other publications. This background in design is evident in the work for which she is now internationally renowned. She layers found photographs from existing sources with pithy and aggressive text that involves the viewer in the struggle for power and control that her captions speak to. In their trademark black letters against a slash of red background, some of her instantly recognizable slogans read “I shop therefore I am,” and “Your body is a battleground.” Much of her text questions the viewer about feminism, classicism, consumerism, and individual autonomy and desire, although her black-and-white images are culled from the mainstream magazines that sell the very ideas she is disputing. As well as appearing in museums and galleries worldwide, Kruger’s work has appeared on billboards, buscards, posters, a public park, a train station platform in Strasbourg, France, and in other public commissions. She has taught at the California Institute of Art, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the University of California, Berkeley. She lives in New York and Los Angeles.” [via.]
Kara Walker, Excavated from the Black Heart of a Negress, 2002.
“Despite the serious subject matter of slavery, power and racism, Kara Walker employs a sense of humor in her work that ranges from the cynical and sarcastic to “toilet” humor laughs at bodily functions and sexuality. She uses stereotypes and caricatures - whether slave, master, black, white, male, or female - and exaggerates physical features to emphasize their race and often their position of power. Cartoonists and political commentators employ similar tools to allow us to giggle at current events and politicians even when the subject matter is serious. By poking fun at our constructions of race and character, power, and history, Walker presents slavery as an absurd theater of eroticized violence and self-deprecating behavior, and she dares to laugh at authority, be it the slave master of the whole of official history.
The impulse to find these images funny comes from the deep sense of discomfort they cause. Walker’s amusements intersect with shame when one realizes one is laughing at suffering. In this way, Walker navigates the limits of humor and challenges the viewer’s sense of what is comical.” [via.]
Kara Walker, Untitled, 2002.
“I find that I am rewriting History, trying to make it resemble me, Kara (and me, negress) but doing it in little bits and pieces. It’s a monomaniacal undertaking, but there is a lot of (white, patriarchal) damage to undo. I mean that’s the only way history is written anyway, in little pieces. I would have preferred to make up my own Mythology and make it stick as effectively as those ante- and post-bellum characters have in the collective unconscious, or to make up stories as influential as the American Revolution and its heroes and ideals. But alas, I’ve got only myself, the Penny Empire of me to work with, so that’s what I do.” Kara Walker’s Artist Statement [via.]