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Houseguest: Frances Stark Selects from the Grunwald Collection

October 16, 2010 - January 16, 2011

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Houseguest is a series of exhibitions at the Hammer Museum in which artists are invited to curate a show of material from the museum’s and UCLA’s diverse collections. For this exhibition, Los Angeles-based artist Frances Stark chose to sift through the works in the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, a collection of more than forty-five thousand prints, drawings, photographs, and artist books dating from the Renaissance to the present. Stark began her research without a specific theme in mind, a process that she describes as “surrendering to taste and to the chance of discovery.” She found herself instinctively drawn to figurative and metaphorical renditions of man and woman. Her exhibition takes the form of a visual essay on the sexes, transporting the viewer through a panoply of themes central to human experience: creation, reproduction, pleasure, the essence of the body, relationships, identity, and death. Stark eliminated photographs from the outset, focusing instead on the intuitive lines of prints and drawings by artists as diverse as the sixteenth-century German printmaker Hans Sebald Beham and contemporary artist Mike Kelley. Each image converses with the next in Stark’s installation, reflecting a flow of moods and sensory transitions from the elated to the melancholic. The exhibition also includes works by Isabel Bishop, Jacques Callot, Edgar Degas, Francisco de Goya, Agnes Martin, Ken Price, and Egon Schiele.

ESSAY

Frances Stark, Curator
By Linda Norden

It is often said of Frances Stark—often by Stark herself—that her medium is language. Writing of all sorts—criticism, experimental fiction, expository essays—occupies as much of her attention as image and object making, and literature is as likely a source for her art as imagery or graphic typography. It’s also true that, as often as not, the “imagery” that she composes consists primarily of text, albeit appropriated text, subject to the tampering hand of the artist. But language is a loose term, and Stark’s engagement with literature is more like than different from her engagement with imagery; she is after something interior that provokes her. In a 1997 article on Stark, Dennis Cooper describes seeing a group of jaded high school students touring an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. To his surprise, the students abandoned their “tightlipped nonchalance” and suddenly became animated when they saw Stark’s seemingly esoteric reworking of the signatures of two nineteenth-century German authors: “Maybe they responded passionately,” says Stark, “because what I’m doing in a lot of my work [is] having a kind of love affair with an artist’s voice…I’m just fascinated by the construction of interiority…[and] I love how literature can be mimetic and revealing at the same time.” (1) More

 

This exhibition is organized by Allegra Pesenti, curator, Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts at the Hammer.

This exhibition has received support from the Good Works Foundation and Laura Donnelley.

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