As part of its ongoing Projects series, The Museum of Modern Art presents an exhibition of works that portray political, social, and cultural subjects by the American illustrator and satirist Stephen Kroninger. Projects 35: Stephen Kroninger includes a selection of approximately eighty photocollages which appeared in major newspapers and magazines during the past decade. The exhibition is on view from July 2 to August 9, 1992.
The exhibition shows examples of Kroninger’s original collages constructed from magazine and newspaper cutouts, alongside the published versions which appeared in such publications as Time, The New York Times, The Village Voice, Esquire, Rolling Stone, and The Progressive. Kroninger’s career began in 1981, coinciding with the onset of the politically conservative Reagan and Bush eras. Since that time he has generated hundreds of illustrations ranging from stinging political commentaries to whimsical caricatures of movie actors and rock stars.
Many of the works point to the contradictions between politicians’ words and actions, the bankrupt promises of certain economic and social policies, the dangers of governmental intervention in the arts, and the problems that threaten world health and the environment. In the brochure accompanying the exhibition, Christopher Mount writes, “The primary role of Kroninger’s collages is to challenge what television and print news present as truth and fact by transforming reality. They are analogous to the brief sound bites popular with politicians. However, in these designs the image has been distorted to reveal another truth, this one as the artist perceives it.”
Kroninger’s work has both an edge and a sense of playfulness. He achieves this by working very quickly, almost instinctively, “drawing” with his scissors. For example, in a satire of John Tower’s unsuccessful confirmation to the position of Secretary of Defense, the artist incorporated clippings from Newsweek (Tower’s face), Time (Bush’s face), Vogue (lips), U.S. World and News Report (Bush’s podium), Playboy (breasts), GQ (hands), newsprint (Tower’s suit), and the champagne glass from a Mumms advertisement.
Kroninger’s use of photocollage represents the popularization of a technique that historically was used by the avant-garde for subversive and defiant purposes. He also acknowledges the German Dadaists, Surrealism, American print advertising, and popular culture as sources for his inspiration. In particular, John Heartfield’s work serves as the model for Kroninger’s biting critiques.
Organized by Christopher Mount, curatorial assistant, Department of Architecture and Design.