Barbara Kruger Untitled (You Invest in the Divinity of the Masterpiece) 1982

  • Not on view

Kruger has appropriated a well–known passage from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes, where the creation of man is represented through the touch of God's finger to Adam's. Combining a black–and–white reproduction of this painting with text, she draws a parallel between the Biblical creation story and that of a lauded masterpiece of Western painting. Kruger's background in graphic design is evident in the way she boldly overlays the clipped image with her aggressive text. By using the word "You," Kruger implicates us in continuing patriarchal narratives of religion and art history.

Gallery label from What is Painting? Contemporary Art from the Collection, July 7–September 17, 2007.
Additional text

In this striking composition, Kruger uses Michelangelo’s masterful rendering of the creation of man in the Sistine Chapel as a backdrop for her razor–sharp text. Kruger constructs a parallel between the biblical creation story, represented by the delicate touch of God's finger to Adam's, and that of a masterpiece of Western art. She expertly contrasts the strident, direct address of the text with the soft luminosity and heavenly focus of Michelangelo’s fresco. The potent intersection of text and imagery suggests that art is a secularized religion that can be bought and sold, provided we believe in its immortality. By using the pronoun "you," Kruger implicates us within the system that peddles faith in the artist.

"I had to figure out how to bring the world into my art," Kruger has said. Adopting the language of advertising and graphic design (her former profession), she came to prominence in the 1980s, a period defined by rampant consumerism in the United States, distilling images and words into compelling missives in which visual culture is never distant from the political, sexual, and economic structures that inform our lives. Kruger's projects have been displayed on billboards, buses, and bus stops and as posters, large-scale murals, and architectural commissions.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 23.
Gelatin silver print, mounted and framed
71 3/4 x 45 5/8" (182.2 x 115.8 cm)
Acquired through an anonymous fund
Object number
© 2024 Barbara Kruger
Painting and Sculpture

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