Artwork Detail

Untitled (Don’t tread on me / Don’t tempt me)
American, b. 1945
Photographic screen print on vinyl
140 1/4 x 92 1/4 x 2 5/8 "
University purchase, Bixby Fund, 1990
WU 1990.15
Barbara Kruger’s politically motivated work articulates a feminist critique of how mass culture shapes and mediates social norms. Through the use of commercial graphics and advertising techniques she renders visible traditional gender and power relations that often go unnoticed or unsaid. In this banner-sized work the artist used screen print on vinyl, a common advertising medium, to place familiar slogans in white block letters onto an intense, eye-catching red border, collaged against a close-up, black-and-white photograph of a snake. Appropriating the slogan “Don’t tread on me” and the image of a coiled snake from early American flags that symbolized defiance and independence for the thirteen colonies, this work also evokes the biblical story of temptation resulting in the fall of man. Threatening and defiant, yet ultimately ambiguous as to whose voice is represented, Kruger’s bold images depart from easily legible, popular advertisements through their unusual, disjunctive combinations of texts and images, demanding that viewers become active interpreters and analysts. [Permanent collection label, 2017]