Few artists have succeeded in treating the ambivalent effects of the mass media and their powers of persuasion in impressive works of art so cogently and variously as Barbara Kruger has done for more than four decades now. So it is no surprise that she is represented in major museum collections worldwide and enjoys broad public attention through exhibitions at renowned institutions. She has had large-scale solo exhibitions, for example, at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. In addition, she participated in documenta 7 (1982) and documenta 8 (1987) in Kassel, and she received the »Golden Lion« at the 51st Venice Biennale 2005 for her life’s work. It is all the more surprising then that the exhibition covering three floors of the Kunsthaus Bregenz is her first major institutional solo show in Austria.
The new solo exhibition especially designed by the artist for the Kunsthaus gives visitors a chance to explore the wide range of her artistic practice in different media. Alongside a host of her celebrated photocollages from the 1980s and a four-channel video work of 2004, she is for the most part presenting new installations in Bregenz that have been especially conceived for the unique Kunsthaus architecture. Through emphasizing different architectural elements in turn (façade, wall, floor, ceiling) and deliberate changes of media, she creates a varied trajectory that sensitizes the viewer to the specific details of Peter Zumthor’s building no less than to the fundamental importance that Barbara Kruger attaches to art’s presentational context. What makes her videos, installations, collages, posters, and photographs compelling, among other things, is how she consciously reflects the art system—its hierarchies and strategies as well as its presentational and distributional relations. Again and again, Barbara Kruger breaks out of this system’s closed circuit by conceiving projects for magazines, poster walls, or other media and sites in public space. These include permanent and temporary projects that refer specifically to particular buildings, or which emerge at sites in urban space in the form of designs for buses and posters.