Issue 26

Issue 25

Issue 24

Issue 23

Issue 22

Issue 21

Issue 20

Issue 19

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
Parasites in Love –Travis Diehl
To Crush Absolute On Patrick Staff and
Destroying the Institution
–Jonathan Griffin
Victoria Fu:
Camera Obscured
–Cat Kron
Resurgence of Resistance How Pattern & Decoration's Popularity
Can Help Reshape the Canon
–Catherine Wagley
Trace, Place, Politics Julie Mehretu's Coded Abstractions
–Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.: Featuring: Friedrich Kunath,
Tristan Unrau, and Nevine Mahmoud
–Claressinka Anderson & Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick Potts

at POTTS
–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon

Issue 18

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Children of the Sun
at LADIES’ ROOM
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
at SMART OBJECTS
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg

Issue 17

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
at NAVEL
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

Issue 16

Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden

Issue 15

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
at LAXART
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
at MOCA PDC
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon

Issue 14

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon

Issue 13

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown

Issue 12

Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with Christina Quarles Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan

Issue 11

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn

Issue 10

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Reviews
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum

Issue 9

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects

Home
at LACMA

Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers

Issue 8

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Letter to the Editor
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth

Issue 7

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Generous
Structures
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

Ma
at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing

Issue 6

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
at LACMA
Jessica Simmons
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

Mertzbau
at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)

Issue 5

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Non-Fiction
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
at REDCAT
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)

Issue 4

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Reconsidering
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
at LACMA
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room
at LACMA

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)

Issue 3

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
F.B.I.
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
and LOUDHAILER
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
at ASHES/ASHES

Issue 2

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen

Issue 1

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
MEAT PHYSICS/
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
SOGTFO
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
@barnettcohen
Mateo Tannatt
Photographs
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe
at LACMA

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Murmurs
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OOF Books
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Sow & Tailor
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Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Linda Stark’s Covert Emotion

Read in Spanish

Linda Stark, Perylene Heart Weave (2020). Oil on panel, 13 x 12.5 x 2.25 inches. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Lee Thompson.

There’s something that happens when I look at Linda Stark’s paintings that I can’t quite explain. A feeling in the throat, the chest—like a long-suppressed sob fighting to push up towards the surface. In other words, they make me feel things. I don’t know quite how to write or think about the paintings, and as a critic, that inspires a fair amount of vulnerability. Yet, as Jennifer Doyle argues in her wonderful book Hold it Against Me (2013), which fights for a space for emotion in contemporary art, an art critic can choose not to be cynical and instead wade into uncharted territories, discussing the hidden world of emotion. 

Doyle remarks that “there is a false assumption in much art writing that we can be smart about emotions only if we are being cynical about them. (Jaded is the default attitude one strikes in the social space of the art gallery about nearly everything.)”1 Yet, nothing in me wishes to be jaded about the tender emotionality palpable in Linda Stark’s new show, Hearts, at David Kordansky Gallery. In it, hearts abound in both predictable and curious ways: purple hearts, bleeding hearts, candy box hearts, sacred hearts. The paintings are deployed with the calculated precision that you might associate with the opposite of feeling or sentimentality—such as Peter Halley’s paintings, which prize harsh accuracy over embodied feeling. Stark’s paintings accomplish an orchestra of feeling with minimal moves, clean graphics, and overly-calculated brushstrokes. Her flawless paint application is bounce-a-coin-off-a-bed tight—a single work sometimes takes the artist years to execute. In making them, she slowly adds layer upon layer, building up low-relief, sculptural surfaces that create lifelike skin textures and glowing halos with perfect, emoji-like symmetry. Moody Rothkos these are not—quite the contrary. 

As Doyle solemnly observes, sentimentality is not only unexpected from critics but “generally unwelcome in institutional spaces associated with contemporary art.” The messiness of emotion belongs to soap operas, page-turning beach reads, motivational quotes strung over entryways—the popular world. But we generally deny it within the hallowed halls of the art museum, gallery, or other academicized art spaces. “The sentimental,” Doyle writes, “stands in opposition to the codes of conduct that regulate the social spaces of art consumption.”2 Stark seems to flip the switch, welcoming feeling in by way of the popular, en route to the sentimental. 

I’m not the first critic to wrestle with Stark’s tug of war between politic, emotion, and the world of symbols. Many cleanly duck out when emotion stirs—some have dipped a toe into writing about how the work emotes while simultaneously edging out of the pool, maintaining the feigned critical remove expected of the (male) academic. In a 2017 LA Times review, David Pagel writes that the paintings’ “elusiveness intensifies their emotional resonance,”3 as if unsure what transformative effect the small paintings have had on him and unwilling to muse further. Artist Vincent Fecteau described Stark’s work in ArtForum as “suffused with intense emotion” that somehow “[lodges] in the folds of [his] unconscious usually reserved for the weirdest of dreams.”4 Here, the world of dreams represents a convenient, surreal space where mixed emotions can be random, and it’s not necessary to fully unpack their resonance. Frustrated by the overall sincerity of the 2018 Made in L.A. exhibition—in which Stark’s stigmata hand emblazoned with the word “feminist” was a crowd favorite—Travis Diehl pondered whether the exhibition as a whole was too earnest, writing that “nothing stifles criticism like righteous appeals to present problems.”5 Where has all that good old jaded cynicism gone? he seemed to plea.

Across Stark’s oeuvre, flowers, cats, nipples, and tarot cards appear as repeated motifs. Such icons have been subsumed into a mainstream visual language, deployed by 20-something painters with ironic detachment—as in the Nike swooshes or tennis balls that seem to appear for no apparent reason in otherwise abstract paintings. (Lucy Lippard’s refrain to young artists echoes in the back of my head: “why [do artists] fear that it is uncool to show feelings on the surface?”6) Though, while another artist might deploy the overt kitschiness of Stark’s hearts with a distanced remove (the cutesy reference an ironic end goal), her legible symbology rewards the viewer willing to plumb the depths of her icons to venture into something more unknowable. In the small drawing, I Heart NY (2012), the heart in the iconic emblem is replaced by tarot’s three of swords card, an allusion to heartbreak, grief, and sorrow. Here, a kitschy icon is replaced with another familiar symbol, though one with a deeper tonal vibration. What exactly is the emotional resonance? Where does it land?

In Hearts, a cartoon Minion-esque eye (Cyclops Fountain, 2020) is topped with a single, flawlessly-plucked eyebrow and floats atop a yellow ground. Its teal eyelids are rendered with layers of slowly applied paint that culminate in a bulbous oculus that juts out from the canvas. A small white heart sits near the pupil—the twinkle in the eye. Not shy of a dramatic flair, Stark has applied ribbons of silvery-blue tears that pour down the composition in neat rows, pooling as they float off the canvas’ edge. And here, somewhere between the sheen of blue-painted tears and the folds of her meticulously-painted eyelid, is Stark’s covert emotion. The paintings evolve “like a fool’s journey that becomes a source of revelation,”7 the artist told Hyperallergic earlier this year. Stark summons an army of everyday objects to do her emotive bidding, transfusing her cutesy forms through some sort of alchemy and allowing her tender personhood to radiate through the layers of rippling paint.

Linda Stark, Cyclops Fountain (2020). Oil on linen over panel, 20.5 x 20.5 x 2.5 inches. Image courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Lee Thompson.

Only once I’ve moved past that first checkpoint of recognizable symbols do Stark’s paintings begin to work on me, even as they confound. My ongoing inability to square her Pop symbology with the moodier and almost transcendent undercurrent in her work compelled me to reach out to Stark herself. This is another vulnerable and slightly unconventional position for a critic to take: relinquishing a cynical, self-protective distance from her subject. Stark helped me both more and less than I’d hoped, offering responses with an air of wise simplicity—like Buddhist mantras that are at once banal and enlightening—but that didn’t quite line up with each other. Still, consistent throughout her commentary was her interest in cerebral ruptures—spaces where meaning-making becomes harder to place. 

“If I can take an idea and dive down to the bottom of the well with it, then come back up for air,” Stark mused, “that is the goal.” This well metaphor resonated with my own confusion, as I splashed around the dark depths with no clear pathway forward, still unsure of how to achieve the coming up for air part. Rather than guiding me up, Stark offered more loose ends. “For me, art is a space where the abject and sublime can co-exist,” she told me. I imagined myself rising like a phoenix from the depths of the murky waters, shuttling forth towards the sublime. She explained that she “aim[s] to express an idea in the form of an essentialized image,” and that in its depiction, emotionality is driven in via her precise and delicate picture-making. “Hopefully,” the paintings “contain a presence which can be transformative,” she said. 

The slipperiness of Stark’s imagery might be the thing facilitating this tension between the abject and the sublime, the popular and the emotional. “Presenting symbols in an unfamiliar way may promote a new emotional response, which can be transformational,” Stark wrote me, again with a Yoda-esque air. Take Bleeding Hearts (2020), a small work that Stark confessed to me was her favorite in the show. The work depicts two cartoon hearts, each topped by mascaraed eyelashes. The symmetry of the eyelash-ed hearts, placed on the upper half of the canvas above a bronze, concealer-toned background, lend a strange personification—something animal, deer-like. The hearts each spill a thin ribbon of red blood (much like Cyclops’ tears) that unexpectedly splay at the bottom of the canvas to form a pair of duck feet. Stark explained that she found her way while creating the painting, listening attentively to its needs: “[It] surprised me and defied logic… The painting resolved itself without clueing me in, and its significance remains a mystery to me.” She described the duck feet as “an enigma,” puzzled by them even as she brought them into being. And, through her own embrace of disillusionment, Stark slowly began to ease my own. 

In her 2004 book The Cultural Politics of Emotion, Sara Ahmed traces the resonance that objects have on the body and how they engage the unknowable world of emotion. She describes a process of relating self to object and ascribing to it an emotive label (i.e., “good” or “bad”).8 Within this logic, what kind of orientation occurs when (as in Bleeding Hearts) the object itself escapes namability? In so much of Stark’s work, her symbols rest on the edge of familiarity and dreamy confusion, hybrid amalgams of recognizable forms unnamable in their collective gestalt. Through the additive puzzle that their symbolism somehow unlocks, the work triggers memories and deeply-buried feelings. In this way, Stark engages a collective registry of cultural codes and tugs at our personal associations with them. We often think of emotion as a private or even shameful activity; we save our tears for private release in the confines of our cars or bedrooms. Yet, emotion is ultimately a process of relating: to objects, to ourselves, and to each other. 

In our communication, Stark relayed a story about an email she received in response to her painting Purple Heart (2018). The painting is a faithful representation of a Purple Heart medal, save the tenderly-painted flowers applied around George Washington’s textured profile. The medal floats against a black background. In the email, a former Marine explained that he happened across an image of Stark’s painting in The Wall Street Journal. He had received a Purple Heart in the ’60s after his service in Vietnam, and he rarely looks at it because of the extreme emotional charge that the object embodies for him. (Emotion that was culturally transferred and modulated into the relic of the medal.) After seeing Stark’s painting, the man said he felt differently about his medal, and he took it out and held it. Its leering effect on him had somehow changed, and he instead felt a sense of peace around the object. Stark’s transmutation allows us to approach long-held belief systems in new and surprising ways, even as we are unable to explain exactly why. 

Perhaps it is precisely through Stark’s unique methodology that her symbols can modify cultural codes, upturn previously held emotional responses. In approaching her symbology tenderly—slowly cultivating connective points that might encourage a collective understanding (even as the work evades one)—her sincerity is what lassoes the viewer into joining her in this quest. As Stark opens herself up to unknown meanings and transfigurations, she lovingly takes us with her, leaving space for relational communion. She positions even the critic as a vulnerable participant, rather than an arbiter of meaning. Stark sets the table for her own communion with the work, and through her relatable (but ultimately unknowable) iconography, she invites us to hold her hand as we jump into the well, so that we might collectively come up for air together. 

Lindsay Preston Zappas is an L.A.-based artist, writer, and the founder and editor-in-chief of Carla. 

Linda Stark, Bleeding Hearts (2020). Oil on canvas over panel, 12.25 × 12 × 2 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Lee Thompson.

Linda Stark, Hearts (installation view) (2020). Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Elon Schoenholz.

Linda Stark, Hearts (installation view) (2020). Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Elon Schoenholz.

Linda Stark, Purple Heart (2018). Oil and flowers on canvas over panel, 12 x 12 x 2 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Jeff McLane.


This essay was originally published in Carla issue 22

  1. Jennifer Doyle, Hold it Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013), 107.
  2. Ibid, 77.
  3. David Pagel, “What Do You See? The Curious Allure of Linda Stark’s Imagery,” Los Angeles Times, Jan 23, 2017. https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-et-cm-linda-stark-review-20170120-htmlstory.html.
  4. “The Artist’s Artists: The Best of 2014,” ArtForum. https://www.artforum.com/print/201410/the-best-exhibitions-of-2014-49122.
  5. Travis Diehl, “Made in L.A. 2018: Widely Inclusive and Brimming with Community Spirit, But Is It Too Earnest?”, Frieze. June 27, 2018. https://www.frieze.com/article/made-la-2018-widely-inclusive-and-brimming-community-spirit-it-too-earnest.
  6. Lucy Lippard, “From the Archives: Out of the Safety Zone,” Art in America. December 1, 1990. https://www.artnews.com/art-in-america/features/archives-safety-zone-63535/.
  7. Elisa Wouk Almino, “Meet LA’s Art Community: Linda Stark Likes the ‘Challenge of Resurrecting a Bankrupt Image,’” Hyperallergic. February 25, 2020. https://hyperallergic.com/544616/meet-las-art-community-linda-stark/.
  8. Sara Ahmed, The Politics of Emotion. Routledge, London, 2004.

Lindsay Preston Zappas is an L.A.-based artist, writer, and founder and editor-in-chief of Carla. She is an arts correspondent for KCRW. She received her MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art and attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2013.

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