the back room of an art gallery
where artists and art lovers hang
Bicornate Bicornous (That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, accomplish the miracle of the One Thing),
2013, Matte laminated inkjet print mounted on aluminium, 120 cm x 90 cm
© Courtesy of the artist
Bobby Jesus's Alma Mater, passage from a movement therein: where is the hand,
2014, Acrylic, spray paint, and digital print on plastic woven with fiber, 254 cm x 401 cm
© Courtesy of Marc Foxx Gallery
Frances Stark, Butterfly Sculpture,
2008, Fabric, foamcore, brass rod, collage on gessoed canvas, 185.5 cm x 98 cm
© Courtesy of the artist
Stills of "My Best Thing" , 2011
© Courtesy of the Artist and Marc Foxx
Frances Stark, My Best Thing ,
2011, Digital video , Approximate running time 1hr 40min
© Courtesy of the Artist and Institute of Contemporary Arts
Frances Stark, Poster for My Best Thing,
© Courtesy of the artist
Frances Stark, Chorus Girl folding self in half,
2008, paper collage, graphite on paper, 193 cm x 147.3 cm
© -- reproduced on the cover of "A Torment of Follies," Frances Stark, produced by Secession, Vienna, Courtesy of Secession
Frances Stark, Clever/Stupid ,
2014, installation view Galerie Buchholz, Cologne
© Courtesy of Galerie Buchholz
Frances Stark, 2010, performance still
© Courtesy of the Artist and Mills College Art Museum
Frances Stark, Spotlight Girl,
2011, Video Still
© Courtesy of the Artist and Marc Foxx
Frances Stark, Osservate, leggete con me,
© Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown
© Courtesy of the Artist and Art Center College of Design
© Courtesy of the Artist and Gallery Paule Anglim
Bobby Jesus’s Alma Mater b/w Reading the Book of David and/or Paying Attention Is Free,
2014. Gavin Brown's Enterprise, New York. Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown's Enterprise
© Frances Stark. Photography: Mark Woods.
© Courtesy of the Artist and Greengrassi
© Courtesy of the artist & Vancouver Contemporary Art Gallery
© Courtesy of the artist & MoMA PS1
Frances Stark, My Best Thing, 2011
© Courtesy of the artist; Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles; greengrassi, London; Galerie Buchholz, Cologne; and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York
Frances Stark, My Best Thing, 2011, video
© Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York
© courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise
Frances Stark, My Best Thing,
2011, Still from digital video (detail)
© Courtesy of the Artist
Frances Stark (b. 1967) lives and works in Los Angeles, California
Frances is an interdisciplinary artist and writer whose work centres on the use and meaning of language. She received her MFA from Art Center College of Art and Design Pasadena, California, and was previously an Associate Professor at the USC Roski School of Fine Arts, Los Angeles, California.
Frances Stark has participated in g...[more]
Over a cappuccino in the lobby of Hotel Savoia Jolanda in Venice, Frances Stark sat in a flower-print sun dress with spaghetti straps. It was the preview week of the 56th Venice Biennale and familiar faces came in and out of the hotel. She greeted friends with a warm smile, while showing pictures of her 12-year-old son on her iPhone. Upon first glance, L.A.-based Stark could pass for any other suburban mom—but sit down with her for a coffee and you’ll believe the opposite. As the winner of this year’s Absolut Art Award, she just won a cash prize of $137,000 to produce and exhibit a new work of art. Finally able to realize her dream project, she plans on creating a digital video feature where she hopes to collaborate with legendary West Coast rapper DJ Quik to produce a contemporary interpretation of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”
Well-known for her play on language and internet nerdery, her video piece, My Best Thing, inspired by dirty talk on Chatroulette, won the audience prize in Venice in 2011, and also showed at the Museum of Modern Art. More recently, she has become inspired by hip hop. She shows shots of Dr. Dre (who she calls “a monopolist”) and photos of murdered rappers. She just mounted a show at Greengrassi in London, where she put floppy disks alongside magazine shots of Nicki Minaj and paintings that say “Clever” and “Stupid.” Now, the self-critical artist prepares for two exhibitions at the Hammer Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago. We spoke about the art world, hip hop, and funding her dream project.
Frances Stark in Venice. Photo: Nadja Sayej
Nadja Sayej: Why did you choose DJ Quik as a point of inspiration?
Frances Stark: A lot of reasons. I take him very seriously as an artist. When I was just getting into him recently, I read a quote of his upon the release of his album The Book of David. He said something along the lines of “I don’t know if people are into art for art’s sake anymore, I think my talents are being wasted in hip hop and I maybe need to go somewhere else to be recognized.” That woke me up. I saw him live a few times, once at a West Coast festival with an old school lineup including Warren G. DJ Quik was a bit hostile. He was making disparaging remarks of Lil Wayne. He said he was retiring in a year. His volatility, criticality, and astuteness—and I love him.
NS: When did you get into hip hop?
FS: Not until later. But I liked Public Enemy. DJ Quik is an L.A. institution. I lived with members from the band, Flipper. I got into hip hop late. I was into glam rock. I also got into dancehall, not that long ago. It was through Major Lazer. I flipped out, it was genius. What is dancehall? I had no friends into it, I was just alone on a dancehall trip, researching it. It started the same with hip hop.
NS: Have you reached out to DJ Quik?
FS: Through [Christian Dior creative director] Raf Simons, of all people. I was in New York at my hotel and by coincidence I ran into Simons. We said hello and he said, “I’m about to go for lunch with A$AP Rocky and his manager, Chace Infinite, want to join?” I said “Sure.” I started talking to Chace about DJ Quik and Suga Free. He looked at me like, “What? You think deeply about Suga Free?” It wasn’t obvious. I told him my serious interpretation and I told him I wanted to do an experimental piece with DJ Quik. Chace was encouraging. He said he would help me. He introduced me to Quik’s manager.
Frances Stark, Bobby Jesus's Alma Mater, passage from a movement therein: where is the hand, 2014,
Acrylic, spray paint, and digital print on plastic woven with fiber, 254 cm x 401 cm. Courtesy of Marc Foxx Gallery
NS: Did you meet DJ Quik?
FS: Yes, a year or two ago. It was awkward and complicated. We had a lot of back and forth on email. He was responsive but skeptical. When I was shortlisted for the Absolut Art Awards, I was asked to come up with my dream project. I thought, “To work with DJ Quik is my dream project.” I believe in him so much, he is tough. He keeps quitting the game but keeps coming back.
NS: What’s the connection?
FS: We’re both middle-aged where we’re disgruntled. If we have to live in the world where there is only one female singer allowed in the pop world, that’s just disgusting. Why does hip hop have to enact this idiocy? DJ Quik is unable to grow as a mind and as a musician, as a wealth of information. He should be writing a book about the formal language of funk. Old school was witty. I don’t want to be a curmudgeon, but this new stuff—2 Chainz. Seriously?
NS: You have a show upcoming at the Hammer Museum?
FS: I’ll be doing interviews as part of the programming. I thought it would be great to interview Quik about the vocabulary of sounds. When people talk about music, they talk about money, career trajectory, celebrity, branding. It has nothing to do with form. Let’s get back to the form.
NS: How do you feel about the intersection of the art world and hip hop?
FS: Critical. It’s happening on this cheesy branding level. Puff Daddy has been vocal about the rage against luxury fixations. Art is a luxury item on that list. What if rappers bought art instead of cars? The branding fixation is the moment, but hip hop is art.
Frances Stark, Poster for My Best Thing, 2011, Inkjet print. Courtesy of the artist
NS: What’s the next step?
FS: To present this to DJ Quik. My interest is the position of maturity. DJ Quik is mature. It’s about art and being committed to the form and content, not doing clothing deals with Rihanna. Everyone keeps focusing on the hustle for the paper.
NS: You see that in the art world, too?
FS: Absolutely. Music has been a strong influence since I was 14. I had a punk rock band called “Voice of Faith.” That was in 1981. I played bass. When I was 15, I had a trippy, arty band, but we never played—we only rehearsed in our practice space. Then I had a band called “Layer Cake” with my baby daddy [Steve Hanson]. I do it because I love music, I’m a groupie. I love Slayer!