Unlike campaign slogans or protest posters, Kruger’s art leaves room for ambiguity. The 1978 works at Mary Boone create partial narratives that leave the viewer to fill in the rest of the story. Take, for instance, another version of Untitled (Body): In the photograph, an empty cup hovers on a ledge. The accompanying text reads: “The technology of disposability / The appearance of stucco / The diving board as metaphor / The appreciation of athletic prowess,” followed by a black-and-white image of a man face-down in water. The final frame simply features the word “wait.” Did this man drown himself because of societal and economic pressures? What was he waiting for? The ledge shares a confounding resonance with the word “diving board”; both convey a sense of danger or anticipation—but of what?
While different in style, Kruger’s 1978 works are part of her larger conceptual endeavors. Throughout her career, she’s appropriated text and imagery, or taken it from existing sources, to create new associations and ideas. Though Kruger rejects the term “political art,” it’s impossible to look at the Mary Boone show without sensing deep convictions about the state of America. Her project isn’t bound to a particular time or issue. Instead, her juxtapositions of pictures and words generate new perspectives on the language and images we’re sold everyday—by the media, advertisements, corporations, and the government. As technology allows for ever-greater pictorial and informational bombardment, Kruger’s work only becomes more relevant.