Exemplifies Kruger's interest in addressing and interpreting heated political issues of the moment. Using as a central image a silk-screened frontal photograph of a model's face, she gives the image additional meaning by dividing the large canvas it occupies into sections.
Right and left the image reverses from positive to negative, and from top to bottom the face is divided into thirds emblazoned with the slogan "Your body is a battleground." Kruger critiques the objectified standard of symmetry applied in modern times to feminine beauty, and perpetuated at fever pitch by media and advertising.
The composition originally included more text and was designed as a poster for the massive pro-choice march that took place on April 9, 1989 in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Kruger has allowed the image to be displayed on postcards with the text "Support Abortion, Birth Control, and Women's Rights". Reproduced here is the large scale original painting in the Foundation's collection. The Foundation's collection includes seven works by Kruger.
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, bus-cards, posters, a public park, a train station platform in Strasbourg, France, and in other public commissions.
"Kruger's works are direct and evoke an immediate response. Usually her style involves the cropping of a magazine or newspaper image enlarged in black and white. The enlargement of the image is done as crudely as possible to monumental proportions. A message is stenciled on the image, usually in white letters against a background of red. The text and image are unrelated in an effort to create anxiety by the audience that plays on the fears of society." (Janson, p. 992).
Text is strong and defiant – the female voice represented by the text asserts that women will no longer accept the dichotomy – forced on them by men – between men as producers of culture (and civilisation – superior) and women as products of nature (inferior) – in physical, domestic and emotional life.
A different view to other feminist artists of the 1970’s who argue that women’s reproductive powers link them more closely to the life force of nature.
Expresses a sense of futility though? – in the image the women is symbolically blinded by the leaves over her eyes.
Realism has continued to play uniquely important role in the history of American art (America was colonised at a time when neo-classicism was the important style of painting in Europe – also pioneer society considered it important to represent the reality of their new country.
Photography has played an important role in American realist art – photography was not an American invention but was found to be a medium which, in it’s objectivity reflected the ideals of American society – truth, egalitarian – ideal for documenting the appearance of America itself – the need to come to terms with and define the nature of the American environment – also to mark separation from Europe this…
The subject of American realist art is not merely the experience of the everyday, but the whole business of setting this within a specifically American context.
American realism was challenged from the mid 1940’s onwards – with the triumph of Abstract Expressionism – forced realism to the margin.
Documents ordinary life in contemporary American history
Features typically American products eg. Coke, ice-cream sundaes, situations and environments eg. Diner
Figures are often self-absorbed, oblivious to the presence of viewers – appear isolated from others, whether in town or country settings
Figures appear to comment in some way on the American Dream and the unlikely prospect of it’s fulfilment
Aspect of sadness or melancholy (akin to an earlier tradition of realism in American Art eg. Edward Hopper’s paintings) Idea of loneliness relates to America itself as a physical and psychological space; the longings and limitations of America and Americans are this often the subject for realist and super-realist artists.
Style of painting (and to a lesser extent, sculpture) popular from the late 1960’s in which subjects are depicted with a minute and impersonal exactitude of detail. Hyper-realism and Photographic Realism (or Photo-realism) are alternative names – Super-realism tends to be cool and impersonal – a style in which extreme realism – in the sense of acute attention to detail – produces a markedly unrealistic overall effect eg. Estes, Flack and Hanson.
Pivotal figure in the history of American Realist art.
Withdrawn, solitary temperament.
Sense of personal isolation, of being within American society and yet not wholly of it.
Selects subject matter which is American – shows love of detail – yet de-familiarised feeling.
Hardly varied style and range of subject matter for the rest of his life.
Feeling for colour and effects of light
His works lack a sense of location, a feeling that a particular moment must be fixed to the canvas because it can never be recaptured.
1925 – painted House by the Railroad, considered the first fully formed example of Hopper’s mature style – filled with the clear, bleak light typical of his work 0 building (typically American architecture0 shown in isolation, in a way which makes it clear that this is something seen in passing.
Hopper frequently used a straight. horizontal motif, usually a road or railroad track. to construct the space within the picture and to emphasize the division between the picture space and the viewer's world. Indeed, the more the viewer tries to penetrate the depths of a Hopper painting, the more impenetrable it becomes. What holds the viewer is that the artist's vision seems under control and yet, on closer inspection, the viewer realizes that the visible surface is a tissue of improbabilities and unreadable shifts in space. Hopper's view that nature and the contemporary world were incoherent contributed to his artistic vision.
"1. Indications of the structure of the house were brushed in with a minimum of black paint in a turpentine mixture. The columns and windows on
2. The house was then painted from dark to light: Hopper gradually added more oil paint to the turpentine and built up the forms with free, often diagonal brushwork.
3. The side of the house in bright sunlight was executed less freely with transparent darks and opaque lights. Lines of blue were added after the opaque white to define forms.
4. The railway line and embankment were also executed from dark to light. The orange and ocher’s on the bed of the track are virtually impasto with short brushstrokes applied in various directions.
5. Although the sky may well have been indicated from the start of the painting, it appears to have been brushed around the form of the house and may have been the final part of Hopper's painting procedure. In the blue areas, the paint is thin with the grain of the canvas clearly visible. White areas were applied more thickly, but not as thick as those of the house, and brushstrokes are visible."
An example of a work where Hopper includes several figures in a single scene – like a Hollywood movie set.
Suggestion that relationships between them are either non-existent or else distinctly uneasy (typical). On the right, seated woman reads a magazine, ignores everything around her. On the left, an elderly couple, she seated, he standing. She glances up and seems to say something; he stares straight ahead and ignores her. The coat over his arm seems to indicate he is impatient to leave.
Scene has a particular intensity due to artificial light. In the background curtains are shut, half-glimpsed restaurant is unlit and not in use. Figures in a kind of limbo; it may be late at night, or even very early in the morning.
The agent of motion is obviously an automobile – we are drawing up to a country gas station, where a single figure is fiddling with one of the pumps. A brief, meaningless encounter will take place, then we draw away again, leaving the attendant to his solitude.
Subject is unconventional (gas station in serious art) idea of Nature versus civilisation reinforced in the composition – our gaze moves from the road side to petrol pumps to lettering, ‘Mobilgas’.
This picture depicts the figure of a bald man raking leaves by the side of a nondescript house. The scene is the closest Hopper ever came to expressing sympathy with the masses. It brings to mind Hopper's student sketch after Jean Francois Millet's Man with a Hoe (1863 , Musse du Louvre). In her husband's record book, Josephine Hopper noted that the grey steps were dark and that the terrace was sooty; she identified the glum, lonely figure of a man with red hair as a Pole, picking an immigrant ethnic working-class group of that region.
Pennsylvania Coal Town brings to mind Sherwood Anderson's 1917 novel Marching Men, set in the Pennsylvania coal region in a town called Coal Creek. The novel, which Anderson dedicated "To American Workingmen," comments on the oppressive routine of workers' lives.
Anderson described the town as "hideous ... a necessity of modern life." Hopper's painting of the man with the rake recalls Anderson's description: 'An Italian who lived in a house on a hillside cultivated a garden. His place was the one beauty spot in the valley... When a strike came on he was told by the mine manager to go on back to work or move out of his house. He thought of the garden and of the work he had done and went back to his routine of work in the mine. While he worked the miners marched up the hill and destroyed the garden.
The next day the Italian also joined the striking miners." In fact, Hopper suggests the "Italian' ethnicity of the man with the rake by including an unexpectedly elegant object at the front of the otherwise dreary house: a classical terra cotta urn on a stand, an Italianate garden ornament illuminated by the same sunlight that shines on the man's bald head. Although Josephine Hopper referred to the figure in Hopper's painting as a Pole, instead of an Italian, the novel also discusses Polish immigrants:
A man seated at his desk in a brightly lit office on an upper floor. Unaware of our presence – we see him through an un-curtained window – as if we are looking into the building from a passing train previously invisible.
Scene of alienation and loss, also expression of longing – man looking out to world – everything seems closed off (rectilinear form of office, windowless block at left, can’t see in windows of other building)
Hopper continued to work in this style for the rest of his life, refining and purifying it but never abandoning its basic principles.
Most of his paintings portray scenes in New York or New England, both country and city scenes, all with a spare, homely quality—deserted streets, half-empty theaters, gas stations, railroad tracks, rooming houses.
One of his best-known works, Nighthawks, shows an all-night café, its few uncommunicative customers illuminated in the pitiless glare of electric lights.
Although Hopper's work was outside the mainstream of mid-20th-century abstraction, his simplified schematic style was one of the influences on the later representational revival and on pop art. He died May 15, 1967, in New York City.
Alone at a diner, a man nurses his toast and coffee, while a lone waitress turns away from his stark meal. Bathed in the light of a movie marquee as if under an x-ray, a laborer stretches to place a single letter almost beyond human grasp. Above him, the blank line waits for the title as if expecting the meaning of life. One hopes the theater is not showing Armageddon .
Sculptor who pioneered technique of life-casting in 1961 – began by coating his models with medical bandages that have been treated with plaster and need only be dripped into pails of warmed water to be shaped to the body. (exposed flesh and hair are covered with nivea cream so that the plaster can be removed painlessly) To remove each section, seams are cut. When they are later reattached, gesture can be modified because the wafer thin moulds are malleable. While the finished casts are durable, they must stay indoors where conditions can be controlled.
Because figures are moulded from life – always have the size and proportions of life. Uses an unconventional technique in a relatively conventional way.