Skip to main content
image alt

Barbara Kruger

Untitled (Don’t tread on me / Don’t tempt me)


image alt

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]

  • Artist Barbara Kruger (American, b. 1945)
  • Title Untitled (Don’t tread on me / Don’t tempt me)
  • Date 1989–90
  • Medium Photographic screen print on vinyl
  • Dimensions unframed | 140 1/4 x 92 1/4 x 2 5/8 in.
  • Credit line University purchase, Bixby Fund, 1990
  • Object number WU 1990.15

The Art of the '80s: Modern to Postmodern
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 01/23/1998 - 04/05/1998

Mary Boone Gallery, New York

Inscription [on verso at CL, white rectangular label] [typewritten:] BARBARA KRUGER / "Untitled" (Dont tread on me/ / Don't tempt me) / 140" by 92" / photographic silkscreen/vinyl / 1989-1990 / MBG# 5238 / [horizontal dividing line] / [printed in gray:] [text torn off] RY B[OO]NE / [horizontal dividing line] / GALLERY, 417 WEST broadway / new york, new york 431-1819

Inscription [on verso at LR and LL of vinyl, printed upside down in red vinyl lettering:] KRUGER

Don’t tread on me / Don't tempt me

This artwork record may be incomplete or need refinement. Our staff actively researches the collection and revises records when new information is available. If you have questions or comments about this record, please contact us.