Frances Stark’s artwork explores the struggles of process and regularly incorporates the written word. The intricate relationship developed between image and text reflects on the difficulty of translation—thoughts to words and words to image. In and In is a collage of two four-foot tall stacks of papers. Colorful advertisements and other pieces of mail are cut into a sheet of white paper and held together with bits of linen tape. While the image suggests piles of reading as inspiration, the material recalls the dull tasks that come before or after the day’s (art)work—sifting through the mail and throwing out the junk.
Words, the building blocks of many creative endeavors, appear more nakedly in other works. Unfortunately… is a collage of birds supporting a pair of thought balloons. Representation and word feed off each other; the letters that fill the circles vertically read, “Unfortunately nothing is so difficult to achieve as a literary representation of a man thinking.” This sense of urgency and futility is echoed in Stark’s persistent efforts to visualize and verbalize artistic production.
Birds, a symbol of creativity and divinity, recur. In Birds Harmonizing on Upended Table they twitter on one leg of the upside-down furniture. Composed of hand-drawn columns of a computer document icon, the table evokes rows of thoughts waiting to be filed. Oblivious, the birds enjoy each other despite the humdrum gloom of their overturned perch.
The wall-bound An Unfolding Soft Secretary with Finials recalls the idea of a writing desk, complete with paper slots and a glassine drawer, without providing a work surface. Unspeakable Compromise of the Portable Work of Art #11 adds to the sense of a comfortable yet off-kilter studio space. The chinoise style chair, rust-colored and rickety, is balanced on plaster plinths and tenuously held together with tape. Like a thought wafting between brilliance and folly, the piece is on the verge of coming together or falling apart.
The rich tones of the chair harmonize with a worktable and a worn oriental rug nearby. Atop are Stark’s recent efforts of translation. She has included a mockup of the gallery and the progressions of a forthcoming book of her visual art production, a complement to the existing volume of her collected writings.
Frances Stark lays the struggle of the process bare. Her work conveys the infinite (im)possibility of the workspace and the complexity of bringing art, and thoughts, into being.
Curator of Education and Exhibitions