Uh-Oh: Frances Stark (1991-2015)


(OCTOBER 11, 2015—JANUARY 24, 2016)

Although the Frances Stark exhibition almost stings you with its revelation of highly personal information, it is still very engaging. It celebrates language and communication, from base utterances to highly developed stages, thus from humans’ first single words to contemporary multilinguality. The show juxtaposes informal language with academic jargon, letter writing with current forms of digital communication, and literary writing with songwriting. In particular, Stark’s fondness for lettering and alphabets is visible everywhere, from the show’s title to elaborate collages in which they appear, sometimes repetitiously, other times exuberantly, as in the letter spirals of her Chorus Girl series. Stark’s love for language shouldn’t come as a surprise, as her mother was a telephone operator and her father involved in the printing business. Her oeuvre, however, goes much deeper than that. Many of her works touch upon important social and political issues. One such issue is men’s fear of emasculation, apparent in Stark’s video My Best Thing (2011)—the highlight of the exhibit, shown also at the 2011 Venice Biennale—in which an American woman and an Italian man get involved via Chatroullette and he leaves her as soon as her career begins to take off. Stark’s social sense also expresses itself in her mixed media piece Memento Mori I (2013), shedding light on the situation of the unemployed, especially the underemployed intellectual. Her works also make a strong and varied feminist statement, particularly in her series If Conceited Girls want to show they have a seat (2008), inspired by Goya’s Capricho Ya tienen asiento in which the presence of a chair disrupts the traditional order of things, and her Bobby Jesus-inspired pieces including Behold Man! (2013) and multi-channel projection Bobby Jesus’s Alma Mater b/w Reading the Book David and/or Paying Attention is Free, (2013), in which women are cast as artistic masters and men as their muses.

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