On view in the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art from September 16, 2016, to January 29, 2017
The most comprehensive survey to date of Los Angeles-based artist and writer Frances Stark (born 1967), “UH-OH” tracks her 25-year career from early carbon copy drawings and text-based works to more recent video installations, digital slide shows, and projects that shape fleeting engagements with social media into art. Featuring more than 100 works, “UH-OH” provides an in-depth exploration of Stark’s singular artistic practice and voice, as she shares her knowledge of cultural topics high and low, including dissections of art history, the Internet, and her creative contemporaries.
Autobiography is Stark’s primary mode of expression. From self-examination—sustained meditation on what she’s reading, making, consuming, doing—come her reflections on literature, music, architecture, art, sex, domesticity, labor, pleasure, pedagogy, and class. Her works are layered with meanings and references that viewers can appreciate on many levels, from persistent visual motifs, to repetitive phrases and titles, to obscure citations, allusions, and puns. Rather than being a traditional chronological survey, “UH-OH” is designed to aid viewers in their own close reading of Stark’s work by highlighting recurrent jokes, rhymes, metaphors, and cultural references. With words and images at the heart of her practice, and moving between analog and digital modes of assemblage, Stark has been heralded by the Los Angeles Times as “the visual poet laureate of the Internet age.”
Highlights of the exhibition include Stark’s pre-YouTube Cat Videos (1999–2002); the playful, provocative and psychedelic “chorus girl” collages from the series A Torment of Follies (2008); My Best Thing (2011), a video that debuted at the 2011 Venice Biennale edited from Stark’s cyber exchanges with two online paramours; the celebrated video installation Bobby Jesus’s Alma Mater b/w Reading the Book of David and/or Paying Attention Is Free (2013), set to a West Coast gangsta rap soundtrack and featuring images that range from Renaissance paintings, to family snapshots, to portraits of hip hop legends. The exhibition’s title, “UH-OH,” contrasts the usual lengthy or pithy titles of Stark’s works with a simple response to a complicated problem. This familiar and percussive utterance demonstrates our instinctive awareness of a difficulty, and inspires us to look deeper, think harder, and listen more carefully.
Above: Frances Stark, Chorus Girl Folding Self in Half, 2008. Paper collage, graphite on paper. Collection Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner. Promised gift to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Digital image © Whitney Museum of American Art.