Barbara Kruger is shaping up to be one of the most important artists to emerge from New York in the '80s. Combining the unabashed emotionality of Neo-Expressionism, the media savvy of Appropriationism, and the rigorous austerity of Conceptualism, her work conducts an aggressive inquiry into exactly what transpires in the countless social, sexual and political contracts that define our lives. With a background in graphic design, Kruger has a keen understanding of the ways we're effected by the subtle interplay of words and images, and much of her work deals with the power of mass media and the advertising industry.
Like that of Jenny Holzer, Kruger's work has the look of propaganda, and in fact that's exactly what it is: propaganda for the idea that one should be aware that things are rarely as they appear to be and one has a responsibility to look beyond surfaces. In this body of work, she raises such questions as who is bought and sold? Who is beyond the law? Who is free to choose? The artist provides a hint of an answer to these questions with her provocative juxtaposition of image and text. "Who is Beyond the Law" is illustrated with a fistful of money, while "Who Is Free To Choose" is paired with an image of two little girls playing with a puppet. A Kruger work dealing with the Pledge of Allegiance is also currently on view as part of the "Forest of Signs" show at MOCA. (Fred Hoffman Gallery, 912 Colorado Ave., to July 1.)