Whitney Biennial 2017

Solo en Inglès

Painting of the book Censorship Now

Frances Stark (b. 1967), Ian F. Svenonius’s “Censorship Now” for the 2017 Whitney Biennial, Spread 3 of 8 (pp.16-17) (the state, like a rampaging mob boss), 2017. Gesso, ink, oil and acrylic on canvas, 79 × 104 in. (188 × 264.2 cm). Collection of the artist; courtesy Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York. Photograph by Bill Orcutt

Frances Stark: I am Frances Stark.

So basically, when you approach this work you see CENSORSHIP NOW. It is the most rankling, uncomfortable phrase that you could imagine having to deal with as an artist or a creative person or someone who finds themselves in a museum.

Narrator: In one painting, Stark has included red paint underlines and blue highlighting stars. These refer to the American flag and the history of violence and oppression that has, at times, been carried out under its banner.

Frances Stark: In this passage, there are two things that are particularly heartbreaking, and one is the history of the deep state of the United States government, and the other is the question of the relevance and agency of the artist.

There's a very difficult reality that artists have to face and that is their complicity to the mechanisms of power.

When you get to the end of the chapter and it's stated very clearly "The state can't be the censor. The state must be censored." This puts the artist in the position as aggressor toward the state. We don't know what that looks like. Well, we know that anybody who tries it ends up dead. What I think I'm trying to say in response, is that in what way am I able to do that? How can I shut down CNN or MSBC or Fox News? How am I to do that as a single artist?

Art, and especially painting, function as financial instruments. That is how they are valued. I imagined that the best possible soapbox I could give to this underground outsider hero-figure from the music world would be to put it on giant canvas, stretched canvas. In a sense, I imagined that I could offer him $9,000 worth of stretched canvas as a soapbox to bring him in as an American artist into the Whitney Biennial.