As an insider of popular culture, Kruger very familiar with articulation
between mass media and advertising. The
replicated black and white photography from the 50s combined with graphics and
text that Kruger is known for relates to her background in graphic design. Although
seemingly blurring the boundary between commercial and art, Kruger actually
makes use of the accessibility of media to generate meaning.
She achieves this by making
use of semiotic, in other words, messages not apparent but coded using signs. 1
As Peirce had said, the sign’s role is to connect the mind of the viewer with
Both text and image are coded in her work and it is only when we combine them
together that we can arrive at the meaning. Therefore, when we look at Kruger’s
work it is important to decipher the connotation behind the denotation. Such an
indexical force embedded in the work encourages us to search the pictorial space
rather than simply adopting a straightforward understanding.
How then is message coded
in Image one? First of all, Kruger breaks up the monotonous images and language
people are bombarded with every day by addressing the viewer directly – such as
the use of “your” in figure 1. Then, she alludes to the associations to
advertisement by using techniques such as font choice and the logo like red
panels. The typography chosen is Futura Bold, used extensively in
advertisements, logos, film and TV, making a direct connection with mass media.
Kruger’s concept is to merge commercial and art by making her artistic style into
a brand image. The short piece of text added on top of the image – “your body
is a battlefield” is very much like a slogan. Kruger also uses media and
political tactics such as tabloid, authoritative and direct language to investigate social relations through the power of
the words. Moreover, the eye catching red
color also points to the merge of art and commercial, as it is a color often
used in logos or commercial use to grab attention. Not to mention, this feature
is made into a symbolic sign by continues repetition throughout all her works. On
the other hand, photography is another important sign. It is a replicated black
and white photo, cropped to strip it out of its original meaning and context. The
woman can also be considered as an ionic sign. It is embedded with an semic code, one that draws into cultural
stereotypes and the background information a viewer has.
is the basis of Semiotics and many of Kruger’s work depicts this dichotomy –
denotation versus connotation. The apparent meaning and deeper meaning coincides
with each other as image is translated into words, and text becomes image. By
using text assisting image – a common tactic used in advertisement, Kruger
forms an anchorage of meaning, forcing the audience
to interpret the media in a more in depth and precise way.
Krauss, Rosalind. “In the Name of Picasso.” October 16 (1981): p.
Hatt, Michael., and Charlotte. Klonk. Art History : A Critical Introduction to Its
Methods. Manchester; New York : New York: Manchester University Press ;
Distributed Exclusively in the USA by Palgrave, 2006. p.210