Censorship Now!!

”Art is in a lost state now. It’s a mess, without any idea of why it exists, where it’s going, who it’s for, and where it comes from. Censorship would immediately grant it a compass, a meaning, a purpose, a direction, give it its power back. An artist who is ”anti-censorship” is essentially waving a white flag; declaring their work to be inconsequential; a smudge, a scribble, a doodle, or polka dot.”

Do you agree? Think about it…

Frances Stark
Born 1967 in Newport Beach, CA
Lives in Los Angeles, CA

Frances Stark’s recent series on view in the Biennial borrows from the incendiary writing of punk musician, cult figure, and author Ian F. Svenonius. Stark hand-painted page-spreads from the title essay in his 2015 book Censorship Now!! In the essay, Svenonius contends that the battle for artistic freedom of speech has been “won” at the cost of art’s irrelevance and powerlessness, suggesting that this supposed liberty only makes artists both more complicit in, and more vulnerable to, militaristic and capitalistic oppression. Artists, he proposes, should take control of censorship in order to eliminate everything from bland nonsense to mass-produced pop to expressions of fascist ideology. Svenonius’s tone is extreme, but Stark leaves it to us to determine his intent. She painted the text on a monumental scale, indicating a high level of commitment to his radical position, especially the ideas in passages she has underlined.

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)


Paired with John Riepenhoff‘s figures from his ”Handler” series (second image from top). Each sculpture consists of a pair of legs  from papier-mâché and modeled on the artist’s own, that supports a two-dimensional work by another artist – here with Michelle Grabner on the left and (if I’m not mistaken) Allen Ginsberg on the right.

The 2017 Whitney Biennial

June 10th, 2017



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