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Stark, Francesfree

American, 20th–21st century, female.

Active in Los Angeles.

Born 1967, in Huntington Beach (California).

Painter, writer, performance and video artist. Works explore language and personal experiences.

Frances Stark received her MFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in 1993. Since then she has had a successful career as an artist participating in a large number of solo shows, including exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, The Hammer Museum, and MoMA PS1. Her work has also been exhibited at the Whitney Biennial, Venice Biennale, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Typically, her art explores the use of language and how we find meaning through text. The artist often draws from her own personal, but relatable, experiences and political opinions. In addition to her art-making practice, Stark has written or been the subject of 10 books, curated exhibitions at the Tate Liverpool and The Hammer Museum, and is a former assistant professor at the University of Southern California Roski School of Fine Arts.

Stark’s artistic practice employs a wide range of mediums including collage, painting, video, and performance. In 2016, The Hammer Museum curated an exhibition titled UH-OH: Frances Stark 1991–2015, detailing the breadth of Stark’s work to date. The show included 125 works in a variety of mediums. The artworks encountered in the exhibition reveal aspects of Stark’s personal life as well as engaging with the banality of the everyday. Many of the works are accompanied by titles that are inspired by quotes from the artist’s favourite authors or feature artistic references that are meaningful to her. The piece entitled, If conceited girls want to show they have a seat…, for instance, provides a direct reference to a Goya painting depicting similar imagery. These subtle inclusions provide the viewer with an extra opportunity to connect with the artist.

Some of Stark’s pieces are known for providing access to her personal encounters and relationships. For example, exhibited at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011, Stark’s feature-length video titled My Best Thing used animated characters to share the exchanges between Stark and two Italian men she met, at separate times, via an online sex chat site. Though their physically intimate moments are shared, their conversations often diverge into various subjects of personal, cultural, and intellectual natures depicting the depth of human interaction and creating a piece that is both relatable and intriguing.

Other artworks employ the use of language in a more straightforward manner. In the 2017 Whitney Biennial, Stark exhibited a series of large-scale paintings of page spreads from the book, Censorship Now!! by Ian F. Svenonius. These monumentally scaled pages from the book, along with Stark’s underlined passages highlight the ideas that resonate with her but also allow the viewer to read and interpret the text for themselves.

Threaded throughout each of Stark’s works are references to the personal and to the everyday. Many works also address the use of language. At the centre of human interaction, language is a tool used to find and make meaning; as an artist and creator, Stark is all too familiar with the struggle to make meaning, but through the use of text and language, she makes her intentions a little more clear and relatable.

Group Exhibitions

2013, Sylvia Sleigh, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool

2015, Material, issue 1 launch party, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

2016, Collected by Thea Westreich Wagney and Ethan Wagner, Centre Pompidou, Paris

2017, Viva Arte Viva, 2017 Venice Biennale, Venice

2017, 2017 Whitney Biennial, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Solo Exhibitions

2010, But what of Frances Stark, standing by itself, a naked name, bare as a ghost to whom one would like to lend a sheet?, Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow

2011, My Best Thing, MoMA PS1, New York

2014, Bobby Jesus’s Alma Mater, Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles

2015, Intimism, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago

2016, UH-OH: Frances Stark 1991–2015, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum and Gallery Holdings

Los Angeles (County MA): Circumferences (2002, collage, carbon transfer, linen tape, casein on Masonite)

Los Angeles (Hammer Mus., UCLA): My Best Thing (2011, digital video)

Los Angeles (MoCA): Structure That F(its My Opening) (2006, gouache on paper with silk on panel)

San Francisco (MoMA): Here (1998, carbon substitute, graphite, and acrylic on paper)

Auction Records

New York, 2 April 2008: F IS FOR FRANCES (1996, ink on vellum with linen tapes, 25½ × 30 ins/90 × 76.2 cm) USD 3,750

London, 12 Sept 2017: Flat Figurine in the round, so to speak (2008, found and metallic paper collage on paper, 31⅛ × 18⅞ ins/79 × 48 cm) GBP 8,125

Bibliography