November 14, 2008 - Portikus - Frances Stark: The New Vision
November 14, 2008

Frances Stark: The New Vision

Frances Stark
The New Vision, 2008
Collage on paper, 24 x 19″
Courtesy Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne

Frances Stark
The New Vision

November 22, 2008 – January 11, 2009

Opening: November 21, 2008, 8 pm
Press conference: November 21, 2008, 11 am
Lecture at Staedelschule: November 18, 2008, 7 pm

Alte Brücke 2 / Maininsel
D-60594 Frankfurt/Main

Frances Stark writes texts and poems. She also creates collages on paper and canvas. Frances Stark’s artistic style is formed from the combination of text, word, writing and image, often taken from collected pictorial source material. The starting point for her way of working is the self-referential use of literary or visual templates, which she places for the most part ironically or metaphorically in relation to herself, that is to say her various (life) roles as artist, woman, mother, professor and member of an (art) community. The transformation of the templates culminates in an expressly personal language, which appears, both visually and contextually, to be extremely fragile. The contextual fragility can be undoubtedly traced to the fact that Frances Stark works in a very self-ironic way, making circumstances, such as indecisiveness, timidity, becoming something, transformation, stagnation or also being a self-impostor become the central focus of her work.

The new group of works created for Portikus is entitled The New Vision and shows different works relating partly to Francisco de Goya’s series of prints Caprichos (Caprices) completed in 1798. The artist herself can also be seen in a squatting position beneath a poster bearing the title Pretty Ugly; the posture is taken from Goya’s The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, (Plate 43 of The Caprices, 1797)—the exhibition Pretty Ugly, in which the artist participated herself, was a group show including well-known artists, whether dead or still alive, and celebrated in self-laudatory style the ‘extravagance’ of the art world. A further reference to Goya’s Caprichos can be found immediately in several works: Caprice No. 26, entitled They Already have a Seat, shows two girls who are being ogled by men, standing there relatively unconcerned with their skirts pulled up to their necks wearing chairs on their heads. In addition to the title there is a comment by Goya along the lines of: “If conceited girls want to show they have a seat the best thing is for them to put it on their head.” The pictorial motif can be precisely located in one of the works in the exhibition, but also the skirt motif and the material itself crop up again at different points. Parallels emerge in Goya’s free, metaphorical but also ironic commentaries to Stark’s use of language with reference to her own works. The fact that language referring directly to the picture—in contrast to earlier works—plays a subordinate role at the moment or perhaps indeed even an absent role, is exemplified by the work with the music stand, which shows two letters from acquainted artists. One letter contains a direct questioning of Stark’s current way of working and challenges her to write more instead of appropriating the writings of others—the other letter is conversely a paean to the artist and visual power of her most recent works. Unable to elude this sandwiched position, Stark allows her own voice to speak out directly: the import and solidity of her personal development or the way one can turn setbacks into something new without necessarily compromising the whole, have become the current focus inherent in The New Vision.

There is an anecdote on the title of The New Vision which deserves to be recounted: the anecdote originated in the artist’s immediate family circle and exemplifies the extent to which language and thematic content (in this case metamorphosis) drawn from one’ immediate field of influence can further invest the work. “Also The New Vision is a kind of family inside joke, so it’s been floating around as a metaphor/funny phrase the whole time. The story is this: my boyfriend, who is usually a borderline animal-hater, uncharacteristically provoked me to not kill one of the caterpillars that was eating our vegetables—even to save it as a “pet”. When I picked my son up from school, I told him there was a new pet at home, explained the story and asked him what we should name it, and within 2 seconds he says “The New Vision”. Pretty remarkable. So anyway, The New Vision turned into a cocoon and when it was time for it to become a butterfly (white moth, actually) we saw it coming out, really struggling. Then we had to go somewhere, when we came back it had died, half-out, half-in.”

Frances Stark used an image of such a semi-pupated caterpillar as part of a collage for the cover of her 2007 catalogue Frances Stark. Collected Works.

With the generous support of the Deutsche Bank Stiftung.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue, which will be published in 2009. For more information and for guided tours of the exhibition, please contact

Director: Daniel Birnbaum
Curator: Melanie Ohnemus

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