Since moving to Los Angeles in 1988, Linda Stark (b. 1956, San Diego) has been making talismanic paintings in which pop cultural symbols, personal mythologies, and feminist notions of the body reverberate in polyphonic yet concise forms. Taking up to five-years time to execute, Stark’s meticulously crafted paintings are formed through incrementally built-up layers of oil. Sometimes reaching high relief, the resulting surfaces imbue her paint’s raw materiality with an almost life-like quality. Stark’s ability to transfigure the pop cultural mundane into the metaphysical is a kind of mysticism that is as suffused with a sincere pleasure in the work’s material eroticism as much as it is an emotionally dense subversion of signs.
Stark draws from her personal pictorial language, developed over decades, combining concept and process, and each painting possesses a distinct presence. The auratic quality to each of her works, evident in the clear devotion required for their creation, implicates the work in lineages of totemic iconography and animism. Transfiguring the canvas through the sculptural feature of a human nipple or manipulating paint to resemble the warp and weft of a textile, Stark’s textural explorations challenge perceptions of the feminine through their ambiguity. Rife with a sense of the ridiculous, her paintings reconfigure elemental forms, such as spirals, flames, and waves, and sometimes depict Black Widows, hearts, cats, and ovaries in an over-determination of gendered tropes. This virtuosic handling of paint accumulates into a transcendent iconicity.
Stark’s recent solo exhibitions include Hearts, David Kordansky, Los Angeles (2020); Painted Ladies, Jenny’s, Los Angeles (2017); and Matrix 250, UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley (2013). Recent group exhibitions include New Time: Art and Feminisms in the 21st Century, UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (2021), Made in L.A. 2018, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2018); Painting: Now and Forever, Part III, Matthew Marks Gallery and Greene Naftali, New York (2018); and Forms of Identity: Women Artists in the 90s, Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California (2017). Her work is in the public collections of institutions that include the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; Wadsworth Athenium, Connecticut; Berkeley Art Museum. She lives and works in Los Angeles.