Who is Beyond the Law?

L.A.’s MOCA restages pointed Barbara Kruger mural in time for 2018 elections

On View West
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Questions) (1990/2018) on view October 20, 2018–November 2020 at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (Elon Schoenholz)
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Questions) (1990/2018) on view October 20, 2018–November 2020 at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (Elon Schoenholz)

Just in time for the Tuesday, November 6, 2018, midterm elections, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles is restaging Untitled (Questions), a graphic installation by Barbara Kruger from 1990 that asks nine pointed, politically-charged questions about today’s troubled cultural climate.

In a press release accompanying the 30-foot by 191-foot mural, Kruger said, “I continue to try to address the issues of control, loyalty, hope, fear, and the uses and abuses of power.” Kruger added, “It’s both tragic and disappointing that this work, thirty years later, might still have some resonance.”

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Questions)

The work is put up on an exterior wall of the Geffen Contemporary, a satellite space of MOCA. (Elon Schoenholz)

The public art installation was originally created amid the backdrop of George H.W. Bush’s conservative presidency and at a time when partisan debate in the United States and fears of an impending war with Iraq were at a fever pitch. The mural originally stood on the south wall of what was then known as the Temporary Contemporary (TC), an industrial structure designed by Albert C. Martin in 1940 that was repurposed in 1983 by Frank Gehry into a transitional home for the fledgling museum as its Arata Isozaki–designed Grand Avenue headquarters was under development.

Isozaki’s museum was completed in 1986, but the TC has remained in use as an art exhibition space. Last week, the mural was re-installed along the northern wall of the building, which is now named for arts patron David Geffen. Describing the atmosphere surrounding the first installation of the mural, Kruger told The Los Angeles Times, “It was Bush 1 and everyone was wearing flags. And, omigod, the war. It was just horrific.”

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Questions)

The artwork is being reinstalled after its creation 30 years ago. (Elon Schoenholz)

The mural reads:

WHO IS BEYOND THE LAW? WHO IS BOUGHT AND SOLD? WHO IS FREE TO CHOOSE? WHO DOES TIME? WHO FOLLOWS ORDERS? WHO SALUTES LONGEST? WHO PRAYS LOUDEST? WHO DIES FIRST? WHO LAUGHS LAST?

The mural represents the inaugural effort of MOCA’s new director Klaus Biesenbach, who was appointed earlier this year after the previous director Philippe Vergne stepped down.

Untitled (Questions) will be on view through the 2020 presidential election.

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