Saturday, November 15, 2008


Frances Stark writes texts and poems. She also creates collages on paper and canvas. Frances Stark's artistic style is formed from the combination of text, word, writing and image, often taken from collected pictorial source material. The starting point for her way of working is the self-referential use of literary or visual templates, which she places for the most part ironically or metaphorically in relation to herself, that is to say her various (life) roles as artist, woman, mother, professor and member of an (art) community. The transformation of the templates culminates in an expressly personal language, which appears, both visually and contextually, to be extremely fragile. The contextual fragility can be undoubtedly traced to the fact that Frances Stark works in a very self-ironic way, making circumstances, such as indecisiveness, timidity, becoming something, transformation, stagnation or also being a self-impostor become the central focus of her work.

The new group of works created for Portikus is entitled 
The New Vision and shows different works relating partly to Francisco de Goya's series of prints Caprichos (Caprices) completed in 1798. The artist herself can also be seen in a squatting position beneath a poster bearing the title Pretty Ugly; the posture is taken from Goya's The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, (Plate 43 of The Caprices, 1797)—the exhibition Pretty Ugly, in which the artist participated herself, was a group show including well-known artists, whether dead or still alive, and celebrated in self-laudatory style the 'extravagance' of the art world. A further reference to Goya's Caprichos can be found immediately in several works: Caprice No. 26, entitled They Already have a Seat, shows two girls who are being ogled by men, standing there relatively unconcerned with their skirts pulled up to their necks wearing chairs on their heads. In addition to the title there is a comment by Goya along the lines of: "If conceited girls want to show they have a seat the best thing is for them to put it on their head." The pictorial motif can be precisely located in one of the works in the exhibition, but also the skirt motif and the material itself crop up again at different points. Parallels emerge in Goya's free, metaphorical but also ironic commentaries to Stark's use of language with reference to her own works. The fact that language referring directly to the picture—in contrast to earlier works—plays a subordinate role at the moment or perhaps indeed even an absent role, is exemplified by the work with the music stand, which shows two letters from acquainted artists. One letter contains a direct questioning of Stark's current way of working and challenges her to write more instead of appropriating the writings of others—the other letter is conversely a paean to the artist and visual power of her most recent works. Unable to elude this sandwiched position, Stark allows her own voice to speak out directly: the import and solidity of her personal development or the way one can turn setbacks into something new without necessarily compromising the whole, have become the current focus inherent in The New Vision.

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