Critics’ Picks

Mothers' Mothers', 2002.

Mothers' Mothers', 2002.

Los Angeles

Frances Stark

Marc Foxx Gallery
6150 Wilshire Boulevard
November 23–December 21, 2002

Three shows currently on view in Los Angeles together may herald the formation of a new sensibility. Sam Durant, Dave Muller, and Frances Stark have all been showing since the mid-’90s, but the simultaneous presentation of significant exhibitions of their work represents a generational and aesthetic shift from the “Helter Skelter” artists dominant in the LA art scene since the 1980s. This is an aesthetic in the making and has not calcified into easily identifiable traits. Nevertheless, certain qualities stand out: These artists think in and through popular music as much as in and through the visual; they weave networks, both actual and associative, by which they blur distinctions between art and life; and they use materials that despite a sometimes industrial origin are homely and leave something of a personal trace or imprint. While all three use a combination of word and image, Stark’s work is the most poetic. At Marc Foxx, she presents two bodies of work that at first appear unconnected: home videos of her cats; and drawing/painting/collage hybrids created from carbon transfer (sometimes color pencil) text and casein on masonite. The videos, which often show two cats lolling around, are each keyed to a particular song and offer a languorous evocation of the quotidian and the markers that distinguish moments from one another. With the masonite pieces, Stark substitutes a hard backing and an often lush field of built-up casein for her more standard practice of raw paper on the wall. Stark’s own writings and quotations from other authors form a literary web as well as actual shapes on the surface of the masonite. Short repeated phrases, especially when juxtaposed with collaged images of birds, indicate that sound is one thread that unites the exhibition: One can almost hear the cacophony of birds singing and multiple voices saying/reading such things as “In purposeless circumference” and “Circumference without relief.” These quotations from Emily Dickinson demonstrate that the acutest attention to the minute or banal can open onto the significant or profound, an apt analogy, perhaps, for Stark’s own practice.