Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Thinking of You), 1999–2000. Photographic screenprint on vinyl: 123 × 101 in. (312.4 × 256.5 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Katherine Schmidt Shubert Purchase Fund 2000.217
ADAMWEINBERG: The phrase, “Thinking of You,” is one you’ve probably seen on more than one sentimental greeting card. But it’s not likely that you would get a card from a friend with an image like this. Here, we see a reproduced photograph of a finger on the verge of being pricked by an open safety pin. Even though the expression—“Thinking of You”—has an innocent connotation, this image and text combine to create an entirely different message. The text is in a font called Futura Bold Italic. The letters are large and white, set against alarming red banners, and splashed across the image, like a tabloid headline.
The artist, Barbara Kruger, often refers to her work as “posters” and sometimes has it reproduced on billboards or T-shirts, like advertisements or public service announcements. By working in the public domain—and adopting a “slogan over image” advertising style—Kruger calls attention to the power of media and uses its devices to transmit her own message.
Kruger—who worked for twelve years as head designer for the magazine Mademoiselle before becoming a full-time artist in 1977—plays with how words and images can manipulate public feeling. She has used her work as provocative advertising for causes and events such as the 1989 March on Washington in support of women’s rights. But not all of her work is politically explicit. Thinking of You, for example, is more ambiguous. It only tells us that someone is thinking of you. And whoever they are, they obviously harbor at least a hint of malice or sour feeling. Is it a political or corporate power? Is it someone you know? Is it the artist herself?