Frances Stark: Collage
But what of Frances Stark, standing by itself, a naked name, bare as a ghost to whom one would like to lend a sheet?
Los Angeles-based artist, Frances Stark, uses collage on paper and canvas board to create gentle and visually pared down works which often leave large areas of the surface white and empty. She covers the rest with textual inscriptions and juxtaposes these with images to form hieroglyphic-like collages.
Initially better known for her art criticism and creative writing, the visual component of her practice has taken a stronger stand in recent years. Her current show spans a period in her oeuvre from 2001 to the present.
An earlier work, ‘In-box’ (2004) is exceptionally well crafted – both in its execution and its visual intrigue: a vertical collage made up of cut out pieces of paper, not layered, but meticulously laid next to one another so that they grow into a tall heap of scrap paper, loaded into a cardboard box. All of this happens on a thin sheet of paper, where there is no room for error. Some of her later works revisit these techniques, as evidenced in the striking piece called ‘50% Head’, made in 2009, where a brain-like object has been constructed out of tiny pieces of paper taped together and the words 50% head collaged from cut out newspaper letters. Here the pleasure is in the viewing.
As shown by the title of the exhibition, Stark implicates herself in her works. These works could not have been made by a man, which is interesting when you look at her most recent three-dimensional works: in complete contrast to her earlier feminine trademark, the ‘Inchoate Incarnate’ series take on a more hermaphroditic quality. Three somewhat amorphous figures are dressed in black kimonos on which old fashioned telephone dials have been embroidered. They reveal something uneasy about the artist’s changing practice, or maybe they indicate an embryonic, formless prenatal stage?
Perhaps this inchoate matter could be transformed into a better blend of the divine feminine with her masculine counterbalance.