Barbara Kruger (b. 1945)
Untitled (We will no longer be seen and not heard). 1985.
9 prints, each 20 ¾ x by 20 5/8 inches.
The Progressive Corporate Art Collection.
Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it. — Malcolm X
Capitalizing on the immediate visual power and rhetoric of advertising, Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (We will no longer be seen and not heard) delivers an efficient message of linguistic and social resistance. Kruger’s sequence of 9 images, arranged in a grid, spells out the phrase ‘we will no longer be seen and not heard’ graphically, but also, seemingly, through the various gestures depicted in its constituent panels.
Although reminiscent of the clear, hand-based gestures of American Sign Language, the poses pictured in Untitled do not in fact correspond to this established system. Exploring the difference between connotation and denotation, Untitled highlights communication’s existence outside the confines of the dictionary. In this spirit, the young girl in the upper right, paired with the confident, contradictory “no,” bravely thumbs her nose at the viewer, continuing to suggest the work as an act of protest. Indeed, Untitled echoes the familiar idiom, ‘children should be seen and not heard.’ Though also, as it leaves its speaking subject, the collective “we,” relatively undefined, may deliver its message on behalf of any group recognized for its appearance rather than for its voice—speaking to issues of gender and race. Typical of the postmodern practice of appropriation or pastiche, the images of Untitled do not come from Kruger’s camera, but rather, are adapted from various mass media sources, such as film stills, magazines and advertisements. In this way, Untitled challenges and exploits the dominant cultural voice both in message and in medium.
Part of the so-called ‘Pictures Generation’ Kruger’s work—along with artists Cindy Sherman, Sherrie Levine and Richard Prince—emerged in the 70’s and 80’s, and questioned the origin of the image as well as the notion of artist as creator. Trained at Syracuse University, The School of the Visual Arts and Parson’s School of Design in New York, Kruger worked as a designer and magazine editor at Mademoiselle, House and Garden, Aperture and others before establishing herself as an artist. She has taught at the California Institute of Art, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the University of California, Berkeley. She lives in New York and Los Angeles.
Grant Johnson ’11
Former Exhibitions and Programs Coordinator