In the late 1970s, Barbara Kruger began experimenting with combinations of images and snippets of text found she found in an increasingly media-saturated world. Her background in magazine graphic design and picture editing, which embedded her in a world of spectacle and advertising, provided the artist with the visual tools to grab a viewer’s attention in the time it took to turn a page. Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You., a new exhibition on view at LACMA from March 20, is a visually compelling presentation of the artist’s groundbreaking work—much of which is new, including video works that re-imagine her most iconic vinyl pieces—demonstrating how Kruger keeps demanding our attention today, and just how relevant and resonant her work continues to be in a rapidly changing world of digital and social media.
Spanning four decades, Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You. is the largest and most comprehensive presentation of Kruger’s work in 20 years, giving audiences an in-depth look at the career of an artist who has been a critical observer of the ways that images circulate through mass culture since the 1970s. It also provides a glimpse at how her direct and often humorous use of text alongside striking photographs and videos anticipated today’s pithy social media-driven landscape, and the ever-accelerating speed at which pictures and words instantaneously flow on screens and throughout our environment.
“Barbara Kruger’s art, and her dialogue with advertising and propaganda is ‘essential reading’ for anyone who wants insight into modern culture,” says Michael Govan, CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, who co-curated the exhibition with Rebecca Morse, Curator, Wallis Annenberg Photography Department. “Seeing Kruger’s works, some familiar and some new, throughout the entire floor of BCAM will be an act of discovery,” says Morse.
The exhibition includes vinyl works, full room installations, single channel videos, large-scale LED videos, and more. Visitors will be able to experience signature works like Untitled (I Shop Therefore I Am) (1987/2019), which reframes the artist’s iconic text piece from the late 1980s as a single-channel video, as well as immerse themselves in more recent works like Untitled (Forever) (2017)—which envelops them in direct, confrontational phrasing covering the floor and walls—and Untitled (Selfie) (2021), a text installation on opposing walls (“I Hate Myself and You Love Me For It”; “I Love Myself and You Hate Me For It”) which not only invites selfies but is broadcast live to another part of the museum for others to watch. The newest video on view, Untitled (No Comment) (2020), mirrors the randomness of browsing the internet, moving from images of cats to hair tutorials to photos of people in front of Kruger’s work. The exhibition also extends beyond the walls of the galleries of the BCAM building, with a large-scale work integrated onto its facade, as well as with audio soundscapes throughout the LACMA campus.
Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You., which was co-organized with the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, will be on view at LACMA from March 20–July 17, 2022. In the meantime, visitors can experience Kruger’s Untitled (Shafted), the 70-foot, three-story work that the artist installed in the elevator shaft of the BCAM building in 2008, which has since become a LACMA touchstone.
This exhibition is part of The Hyundai Project at LACMA, a joint initiative between Hyundai Motor Company and LACMA since 2015.