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Barbara Kruger (b. 1945)
PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE MILANESE COLLECTOR
Barbara Kruger (b. 1945)

Untitled (Who follows orders?)

Details
Barbara Kruger (b. 1945)
Untitled (Who follows orders?)
black and white photograph, in artist's frame
99 x 40in. (251.5 x 101.5cm.)
Executed in 1990
Provenance
Mary Boone Gallery, New York.
Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago.
Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above in 1992).
Private Collection, Milan.

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Alexandra Werner
Alexandra Werner

Lot Essay

‘I work with pictures and words because they have the ability to determine who we are, what we want to be, and what we become.’ – Barbara Kruger

Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (Who follows Orders?) is an outstanding example of the artist’s stripped-back and uncompromising aesthetic. In Untitled (Who follows Orders?), a man stares intently at a table covered in blocks, engaged in fitting them into a puzzle of differently-shaped slots. He wears a shirt and suspenders; it seems to be a late night at the office. On the wall, dappled shadows mirror the blocks’ patterns and, together, they emphasize the verticality of the monochrome image. Floating atop in aggressive red, the text interrogates ‘who follows orders?’ Characteristic of Kruger’s practice, this bold combination of text and image forms a provocative inquiry. ‘Pictures and words,’ Kruger explains, ‘seem to become the rallying points for certain assumptions’ (B. Kruger interviewed by R. Prince, Bomb, September 11, 2009). In its essence, this is an art of ideas and rhetoric, aligned closely to that of Jenny Holzer, for whom language is used to trouble the viewer into rethinking and renegotiating a social consciousness. The answer is never a given. In Kruger’s photomontages there is a similar sense of boundless interpretation, in part because her language operates within the eternal contemporary. As writer Gary Indiana explains, ‘There are moments when some of Kruger’s images just paste themselves over reality’ (G. Indiana, ‘The War at Home,’ Thinking of Your, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1999, p. 10). In Untitled (Who follows Orders?), as with Kruger’s other works, the use of direct address ensnares and implicates, trapping the viewer in the realm of the image. Meaning, thus, is open-ended and in flux: who, indeed, follows orders?

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