Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I mean Me. I mean You

The exhibition of Barbara Kruger displayed at the Museum of Modern Art stands out as one of the most omnipresent works. Located on the second floor, Kruger’s display envelops all corners of the exhibition room. Sentences, written in bold black and white fonts invoke the visual senses of visitors. The textual statements are inescapable as Kruger’s “Thinking of You. I mean Me. I mean You” does not keep any canvas area blank, including the floor which is entirely shrouded by sentences where font size is large enough to park a motorcycle or any two-wheeled vehicle. Despite sharing similar features, however, text on each wall is presented in a different manner and attempts to invoke different ideas. Through this exhibition, Kruger attempts to express her views on individualism, conflicts rooted in individualism, and social justice.

This thing called Me. This thing called You

Upon entering the exhibition room or exhibition hall, an appropriate term to describe the venue given the vast amount of area consumed by Kruger’s art, the wall on the left side introduces the concept of individualism. Inside a circle with a gradient border, Kruger writes that “You,” referring to the viewer, are being controlled by your mind in a shambling world. Such consciousness, according to Kruger’s text, is causing individuals more on the self, personified as “me” in this textual work. It further implies that such a tendency is active at present, and in order to make people realize it, she urges people to “come closer.” What makes the text on this wall distinctive from the rest is its presentation style. Written inside a circle covering the entire wall, the first two lines curve upwards whereas the lines in the bottom half of the circle curve downwards.

Wall of Wars

Among all the other artboards in the exhibition hall, including pillars that were also engraved with novelistic phrases, another peculiar piece of Kruger’s is a small square patch located by an entrance to another exhibition room. The text highly focuses on all types of war stemming from conflicts created by individualism. For instance, wars of classes, race, religion, trade wars, a war for peace, and a war for a world without women are namely some categorical fights inscribed. Although the fonts on this artboard are similar, there are two new elements separating it from the rest of the walls: A striped background of black and white highlights underlying each line, and two green crossings pasted on the words “me,” and “you.”

You on women

Given how Kruger enlarges the word “You,” in every circular canvas, it can be deduced that she tries to speak directly to her audience via emboldened words. Some also weigh on social issues like gender inequality. For example, one such canvas hung atop a wall states that “you,’ once again referring to spectators, are aware of society’s perception of women as individuals who have spent centuries reflecting on the dominance of men, who have managed to create a sense of inequality by exerting their power twice than what nature has bestowed upon them.

Similar to Xaviera Simmons, another contemporary artist whose work has been featured at the Queens Museum, Kruger also experiments with her text’s grammatical structure. Sentences often appear ambiguous due to the use of punctuation at unrequired junctions. For example, in the last canvas discussing society’s prolonged view on the role of women, Kruger like her counterpart Simmons refrains from using any commas or periods at all to separate ideas that are hidden beneath the sentence.