At the Whitney, Frances Stark’s Giant Paintings Argue Against the Censorship They Promote

THE DAILY PIC: At the Whitney Biennial, Stark shows vast, uncensored reproductions of a pro-censorship text.

THE DAILY PIC (#1757—Whitney Biennial edition): I guess my all-around favorite objects in this year’s Biennial were a suite of huge paintings by Frances Stark that simply reproduce whole pages from a book called Censorship Now!! by the cranky, radical—but not dismissable—Ian Svenonius. His text, so painstakingly reproduced via Stark’s brushstrokes, argues for the censorship of many of the nastier bits of mainstream and establishment culture, in just the way that parts of the establishment have wanted to censor parts of the counterculture that it disapproves of.

The enlargement that Stark does is of course the direct opposite of censorship, and could be generalized as a defense of free speech in all cases. There’s clearly some kind of celebration of Svenonius in Stark’s paintings. But in their sheer, unavoidable legibility, they might also stand as a counterweight to Svenonius’s call for silencing voices he doesn’t like.

One other thing I like about these pictures. The vast majority of contemporary paintings are hobbled by the weight of authority their ancient medium carries. (Worse, they don’t even notice that they are.) Stark is using just that weight to make us consider the words of a radical anti-authority—who seems to have an authoritarian streak. (Photo by Lucy Hogg)

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