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First solo exhibition in a museum by Los Angeles-based artist Linda Stark opens at Berkeley Art Museum
Linda Stark: Stigmata, 2011; oil on canvas over panel; 36 x 36 x 3 in.; courtesy of Angles Gallery, Los Angeles.

BERKELEY, CA.- Linda Stark / MATRIX 250 is the first solo museum exhibition by the Los Angeles–based artist, who has been making figurative and abstract paintings since the late 1980s. The exhibition showcases approximately fifteen works over the last two decades, many of which conflate the surface textures of the painting with various aspects of the female body, primarily flesh. Each of these modestly scaled paintings is the result of a time-intensive and material-rich artistic process, resulting in work that may at times seem more sculptural than painterly.

Inspired by transcendent, universal themes, as well as common utilitarian patterns, Stark’s distinctive body of work is organized around central motifs: spirals, rotations, weave patterns, fountains, flames, crosses, flesh, animals, and water. While working as a temp in a law firm, for instance, Stark became fixated with the herringbone weave pattern of the hardwood floor and started to consider the possibilities of working with this intricate motif in oil. White Weave (1992) is one of many canvases that developed out of this moment. Gradually dripping layers of thick oil paint onto the surface of the canvas, she patiently waits for the individuated lines to dry before adding yet another layer on top—a process that in its entirety can take upward of a year to complete. The weave pattern evokes women’s work and the Homeric tale of Penelope, who endlessly wove a shroud in order to avoid her eager suitors while waiting for Odysseus’s return.

The female body, shown in abstracted close-ups, has been a particular focus of Stark’s oeuvre, as witnessed in diverse representations of female genitalia and other fragmented body parts (belly buttons, hair, nipples, tattoos, etc.). She gravitates toward charged, forbidden imagery, often confronting that which is taboo, overused, or abject. In Coat of Arms (1991), she lifts a diagram of the endometrium from the popular feminist volume Our Bodies, Ourselves, presenting the uterus in gold paint against a dark, blood-red background. In Untitled (Two Fountains) (1991) blood seemingly streams forth from two female breasts set amid a fleshy, tactile ground, eventually dripping down off the canvas’s edge.

What emerges from this body of work is a deep interest in human psychology and spiritual subjects, filtered through a playful pop aesthetic. “One could say I’m a confessional artist,” Stark has said, “the work is personal, though I believe that it is through the intensely personal that one can make work that is telling of the human condition, relating to all of humanity.” The artist will travel to Berkeley for an artist’s talk on Friday, October 18, coinciding with the opening of the exhibition.

Born in San Diego in 1956, Linda Stark lives and works in Los Angeles. The artist received a B.A. from University of California, Davis (1978), and an M.F.A. from University of California Irvine (1985). Over the last twenty years, she has exhibited in numerous solo exhibitions at Angles Gallery, Los Angeles; as well as at the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, Santa Barbara; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles; and Feigen Contemporary, Chicago.

Her work has been featured in selected group exhibitions as varied as Viva La Rasberries (organized by the artist Evan Halloway), Harris Lieberman Gallery, New York; Meticulosity, Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles; FINDS! The Unusual Object, FOCA Curator’s Lab, Los Angeles; Unfinished Paintings, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Los Angeles; Desire: Six Los Angeles Artists, Pasadena Museum of California Art, Pasadena; L.A. Paint, Oakland Museum of California, Oakland; and Mel’s Hole, California State Fullerton Grand Central Arts Center, Santa Ana; among many others. She is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artist Fellowships, a California Arts Council Fellowship, and a COLA Visual Artist Fellowship.

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