In her collages, Frances Stark has words, graphic elements, or drawings encounter literary quotes or cut-out photographs. These works develop a tension from the combination of forms that are both reduced and fanciful and extended empty surfaces. The starting point for Stark is her use of literary or visual models. For instance, she based her work group A Torment of Follies, which was shown at the Wiener Secession in the spring of 2008, on the absurd novel Ferdydurke by the Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz published in 1937. In her new works for the Portikus in Frankfurt, she cites Goya, one of the most important pioneers of modern art. She places this material in specific relation to her various roles as artist, woman, mother, professor, and member of the art community. Stark's multilayered work encompasses both fine art and poetry.
Stark calls her exhibition at the Portikus, with which the partnership between the Frankfurt exhibition hall and the Deutsche Bank Foundation enters its tenth year, The New Vision. The title of the show, fraught with meaning, stems from an anecdote that nips any feelings of pathos in the bud. The New Vision is the name the artist's son gave to a caterpillar that lived in Stark's garden. The New Vision did not manage to transform into a butterfly, but died during the metamorphosis. Later, the artist used the image of a half-transformed caterpillar for a collage pictured on the cover of the catalog Frances Stark. Collected Works published in 2007. It is a telling motif, for again and again the artist (who lives in Los Angeles) negotiates not only the issue of transformation, but also the issues of stagnation or uncertainty. For instance, one of her works on view at the Portikus shows a music stand on which she has stuck two letters from artist friends. One letter questions Stark's current way of working and calls on her to write more herself rather than appropriating texts by others. The second letter, conversely, is a hymn of praise to the visual power of her latest works.
The new work group created for the Portikus also includes pictures that relate to Goya's series Caprichos (Caprices) completed in 1798. Capricho No. 26, entitled "They Already Have a Seat," shows two girls who are being ogled by men yet look relatively unaffected. Absurdly, they have pulled their skirts up to their necks and are wearing a chair on their heads. In addition to the title, there is a comment by Goya that roughly translates as: "If conceited girls want to show they have a seat the best thing is for them to put it on their head." One of the works on exhibit is a precise quotation from this Capricho, and the motif of the skirt is found in various works in the show. There are parallels between Goya's often very ironic comments on his works and Stark's dealings with language. The New Vision is at once a complex and poetic investigation of the question of what it means to be an artist in today's world.
The New Vision
November 22, 2008 - January 11, 2009