Barbara Kruger asserts that her art may not be social commentary but simply ‘observation’. Intentional or not, it comes across as commentary to most people – and pretty pointed commentary at that.
The artist has, over the years, addressed many issues including women’s reproductive rights, how development squeezes out lower income people, etc., etc. Our culture of consumerism and excess consumption has, however, occupied a central role in her work. The “I shop therefore I am’ image (above) is from the 1980s, but the theme is continued and expanded in her exhibit entitled “Plenty”, currently showing in East Hampton, NY.
“You want it/You need it/You buy it/You forget it.” are the words plastered on the ceiling in large, squeezed letters. On the walls “Money makes money and a rich man’s jokes are always funny.”
As this review in the New York Times points out, it is difficult to see this exhibit as anything other than cutting criticism of the very audience likely to be visiting this exhibit in The Hamptons.
But perhaps the best commentary on our unsustainable consumer lifestyle emerged by accident; an artwork that was not an artwork at all but can hold its own with the best of Barbara Kruger’s work. Her exhibit “Plenty” came to an end (as exhibits do) after running in LA. I came across the announcement below on an LA culture web site. Maybe our age of plenty has indeed come to an end and we haven’t yet noticed.