Barbara Kruger - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, October 4, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Monika Sprüth Galerie, Cologne
    Private Collection, Germany
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Siena, Palazzo delle Papesse, Barbara Kruger, 22 June - 5 September 2002, pp. 106, 110 (illustrated, p. 106)
    Munich, Sprüth Magers, Barbara Kruger, 10 September - 30 October 2004

  • Literature

    Laura Mulvey, 'Dialogue and Spectatorship: Barbara Kruger and Victor Burgin’, Visual and Other Pleasures, New York, 1989, p. 130 (illustrated, n.p.)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Untitled (You Transform Prowess into Pose), is a potent and engaging example of Barbara Kruger’s unparalleled interrogation of socio-political power constructs, identity, gender and sexuality. Characteristically interfering with her compositional ground, a black and white photographic image, the artist intrusively pastes text stated in Helvetica Ultra Condensed text or white-on-red Futura Bold Oblique over the graphic. Kruger's art and dicta was central to the Pictures Generation, the group of artists who used appropriation to unveil the false nature of images within the proliferation of visual culture in the 1970s. Translating social and political statements into sharp catchphrases Kruger’s work seizes the viewer’s attention, and compels them to take action.

    Working as a graphic artist and picture editor at Condé Nast Publications in New York, Kruger gained unprecedented first-hand insight into the power of images as a seductive tool, ideal for propaganda. Sharing methodology with the techniques used in designing commercial magazines, professionally, the present work would be considered a ‘paste-up’. Developing her trademark style, collaging found material and drawing on the influence of Russian Constructivism and the graphic, political work of Alexander Rodchenko, Kruger amassed a vast archive of images and text.

    In the present work, Kruger has taken an image, previously used to propagate the stereotype of the ‘female role’, and re-contextualised it with the insertion of bold, monochrome text: ‘You transform prowess into pose’. Exposing the blatant masculine perspective encoded within the photographs she addresses the role – and associated image - of women in popular culture, society and their subsequent portrayal in media. Commenting on her critical stance, the artist notes her ‘attempts aim to undermine that singular pontificating male voiceover which “correctly” instructs our pleasures and histories or lack of them. I am wary of the seriousness and confidence of knowledge. I am concerned with who speaks and who is silent: with what is seen and what is not’ (Barbara Kruger, quoted in Alexander Alberro, ‘Picturing Relations: Images, Text and Social Engagement’, in Alexander Alberro, Martha Gever, Miwon Kwon & Carol Squiers, Barbara Kruger, New York, 2010, p. 193).

    Kruger confronts the viewer with a graphic style akin to that used in newspaper headlines and advertising, asserting her own bold reading of the background image. ‘Kruger has become the ‘savage’ in the urban jungle of media image implosion, taking an adversarial position by using media conventions of propaganda posters and the slick paste-up layouts of glossy magazines, to emblazon her message to the widest audience she can reach’ (Lita Barrie, ‘Beyond the Looking Glass Your Truths are Illusions’, in Ian Wedde & Gregory Burke, eds., Now See Hear! Art Language and Translation, Wellington, 1990, p. 191).

    Kruger’s work is also reminiscent of the photomontages crafted by the disillusioned Hannah Höch, a member of the German Dada movement who, experiencing the evolution of film, photography and mass-media, female liberation, the granting of women’s suffrage, and the post-first World War degradation of Germany, explored her political, social, and commercial surroundings through the medium of collage. Kruger’s artwork features strong similarities to Höch’s collages, constructed by images taken from popular publications, magazines and journals, and critiquing the social and political landscape to which she was subjugated, using satire to challenge the social status of women, and ultimately setting the course for post-modern conceptual artists. Both artist’s use photomontage to expose, critique and mock the ideological purposes of consumer publications. Kruger, assumes both visual and conceptual resemblances to Höch, addressing the cultural construct of power, whilst also using pop culture images appropriated from the public sphere, and redefining their context.

    Kruger’s remarkable corpus, spanning four decades, is decidedly political. The artist’s command of media techniques, combined with poetic and linguistic flair, facilitates her ability to produce artwork which transcends the impenetrable boundaries of patriarchal culture ‘The quotational qualities of these words and pictures remove them and their ‘originals’ from the seemingly natural position within the flow of dominant social directives, into the realm of commentary’ (Barbara Kruger quoted in Kate Linker, ‘Early Work’, in Charles Miers, ed., Love for Sale: The Words and Pictures of Barbara Kruger, New York, 1990, p. 17).

  • Artist Biography

    Barbara Kruger

    Cool yet critical, Barbara Kruger’s advertising-influenced conceptual works address and challenge cultural constructions of power, identity, consumerism, and sexuality through their aggressively direct interrogations of the iniquities of modern life. Often employing the use of direct address and inclusive personal pronouns such as “I,” “you,” and “they,” Kruger’s aphorisms are unspecific and all-encompassing; the accusatory ambiguity of Kruger’s artworks unflinchingly implicates the viewer, society, and the artist herself for the omnipresent societal sins of our time.

    Kruger’s work is deeply ironic and thoroughly anti-hierarchical, criticisms delivered through a panoply of media for indiscriminate and immediate reception. Her moralizing messages, memento mori for the digital age, have been featured on museum walls as well as on t-shirts, billboards, and the façade of an infamous Frankfurt department store; they have become so ubiquitous that they seem to emanate from inside of our own consciences. Kruger has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Serpentine Gallery, London; the Moderna Museet, Stockholm; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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Untitled (You Transform Prowess into Pose)

black and white photograph, in artist's frame
185 x 120 cm (72 7/8 x 47 1/4 in.)
Executed in 1984.

£150,000 - 250,000 

Sold for £225,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 [email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 5 October 2018