FOCUS: Frances Stark

November 19, 2021 - January 9, 2022
Black Flag, Frances Stark

Frances Stark
Black Flag, 2018
Oil on canvas
Four panels, each 72 x 93 inches
© Frances Stark, Courtesy the Artist, Gladstone Gallery, Galerie Buchholz, and Greengrassi

November 19, 2021 - January 9, 2022

Frances Stark is an interdisciplinary artist and writer based in Los Angeles whose work is always evolving. Stark’s output comes in many forms, including painting, video, collage, performance, and drawing. Her singular artistic voice arises from her own experiences; as the New York Times described it, “The artist’s material is her life.” A group of works will reflect a particular subject or theme she is engaged in or reading about—pedagogy, literature, colleagues, relationships, art, music, sex, procrastination, motherhood—and while of personal interest to the artist, the subjects are wholly universal, relatable, and rendered accessible through Stark’s sincerity and her witty combinations of image and language. Her ability to find humor and poetry in even the most mundane aspects of daily life and society led the Los Angeles Times to declare her “the visual poet laureate of the internet age.”

In recent paintings, such as Reading Henry Miller’s Air-Conditioned Nightmare from the mid-1940’s, 2019, and Ian F. Svenonius’s “Censorship Now” for the 2017 Whitney Biennial, 2017, Stark captures in graphic detail different books she is reading. As she has recently stated on these paintings, “I’m not making a syllabus but rather capturing these haptic engagements with (mostly) American voices critical of empire. And then there’s the choice to paint, the re-orientation/transposition of long-form thought, my own battle with an inability to write and utter failure to feel stabilized by any sense of value or agency.” For the Censorship Now series, Stark made exceedingly enlarged double-page spreads from the iconic punk musician Ian Svenonius’s 2015 manifesto—a tome containing serious reflections on and critiques of American culture, particularly pop culture and mass media, that is veiled in playful irony and satire and ultimately calls for universal censorship in order to free humankind. Though tongue-in-cheek, Svenonius’s text aims to dislodge our prescribed ways of thinking. For the paintings, Stark painstakingly reproduced her copy of Censorship Now!!!, replete with her charmingly handwritten annotations, adding the layer of her as a reader and editor into the work, while also sharing her platform—the Whitney Biennial—with an underground voice. Both the text and the paintings are provocative and show Stark’s continued interest in language and the potential for art to catalyze.

Frances Stark
Black Flag, 2018
Oil on canvas
Four panels, each 72 x 93 inches
© Frances Stark, Courtesy the Artist, Gladstone Gallery, Galerie Buchholz, and Greengrassi