Bar­bara Kruger’s Getty pro­ject

The artist leads high school­ers to cre­ate “Whose Val­ues?”

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - Re­beca. bag­docimo @ latimes. com

Artist Bar­bara Kruger posed four key ques­tions to high school stu­dents: Whose val­ues? Whose jus­tice? Whose fears? And whose hopes?

The an­swers now hang as 48 pan­els cov­er­ing two walls in­side the Getty Mu­seum, on dis­play through Au­gust. The point of ask­ing such ope­nended ques­tions, Kruger said, was to en­cour­age stu­dents to think about the world around them and the daily prob­lems they en­counter. More than 400 stu­dents col­lab­o­rated on the pro­ject, ti­tled “Whose Val­ues?”

Ev­ery year the mu­seum’s ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment col­lab­o­rates with an artist on the Getty Artists Pro­gram. For its fifth year, the pro­gram se­lected Kruger, the Amer­i­can Con­cep­tual artist known for merg­ing found im­ages with declar­a­tive text to con­front so­cial con­struc­tions.

In past years, artists worked with dif­fer­ent au­di­ences. Kruger took the op­por­tu­nity to work with public high school stu­dents and teach­ers. Be­gin­ning in Novem­ber, she led weekly class­room meet­ings with 11th- and 12th- graders from Chatsworth Char­ter High School and Grover Cleve­land Char­ter High School in Reseda.

“This is what I care about: that stu­dents feel en­gaged with the world around them and the is­sues they ex­pe­ri­ence ev­ery day,” Kruger said.

In the meet­ings, Kruger di­rected dis­cus­sions with the stu­dents about val­ues, jus­tice, fears and hopes. Af­ter many con­ver­sa­tions, stu­dents por­trayed their thoughts in var­i­ous media. Their com­bined art led to the cre­ation of the Getty pan­els.

Afrah Shah, who’ll soon be a se­nior at Cleve­land, said the chance to work with Kruger was em­pow­er­ing.

“We don’t get to have these con­ver­sa­tions of­ten,” Shah said. “I think it’s im­por­tant to have these dis­cus­sions.”

Five stu­dents worked to­gether to cre­ate a let­ter “S” in the phrase “Whose Fears?” The panel has a painted im­age of a girl cov­er­ing her eyes with the writ­ten words “fail­ure, rejection, abuse,” which rep­re­sents some of the stu­dents’ fears.

Another panel — the “P” in “Whose Hopes?” — looks as though it’s a chalk­board placed among the other letters. Chalked around the “P” are the hopes of seven stu­dents writ­ten out. One of the many state­ments reads, “I hope for equal­ity.”

An in­ter­ac­tive ex­hi­bi­tion ac­com­pa­ny­ing the stu­dents’ in­stal­la­tion al­lows visi­tors to an­swer Kruger’s ques­tions on cards and post them on a nearby wall. Those un­able to re­spond to Kruger’s ques­tions at the Getty Cen­ter can an­swer them on so­cial media sites with the hash­tag # who­se­val­ues.

“It’s pretty pro­found. The in­stal­la­tion in­ter­sects many voices and per­spec­tives from a di­verse group of peo­ple,” said Cathy Car­pen­ter, ed­u­ca­tion spe­cial­ist at the Getty. “Be­ing dis­played in the Getty makes the art­work that much more pow­er­ful.”

The fin­ished in­stal­la­tion may be pow­er­ful, Kruger said, but the most grat­i­fy­ing part for her was the process. The most ful­fill­ment came from the time spent col­lab­o­rat­ing and cre­at­ing with stu­dents, she said.

Kelly De Leon, a re­cent Grover Cleve­land grad­u­ate who worked on the pro­ject, ap­pre­ci­ated hav­ing such a noted artist guide them through the process, provid- ing in­put and cri­tiques.

“It’s a good thing to have the pro­gram avail­able be­cause it’s a learn­ing op­por­tu­nity,” De Leon said.

Added Car­pen­ter: “A suc­cess­ful pro­ject is when we’ve been able to help the artist do some­thing they may not have been able to do by them­selves.”

Bar­bara David­son Los An­ge­les Times

THE GETTY ARTIST PRO­JECT this year fea­tures Bar­bara Kruger’s piece en­list­ing hun­dreds of high school stu­dents on the “Whose Val­ues?” in­stal­la­tion.

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