NEW YORK, NY.- The Pace Gallery
presents an exhibition by Jennifer Bartlett, who installed a single painting that stretches more than 158 feet along three gallery walls. Recitative, comprised of 372 steel plates, is an epic exploration of color, painted in a style reflecting the reductive language of Minimalism and the rule-based systems of Conceptualism.
Recitative, 200910, is Jennifer Bartletts largest work to date in terms of running feet and her third large-scale painting. Recitative relates directly to Bartletts earlier installations, Rhapsody (1976), which is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Song (2007), in the permanent collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art. According to the writer Kiki Jai Raj, Recitative is a deeper analysis of the color explication in Rhapsody, with the next step: line, only introduced as a character at the very end. The movements of color notation build and overlap like musical themes.
Rhapsody, which Bartlett began in May 1975 and completed and exhibited the following spring, was the tour de force that catapulted her to international recognition. The New York Times critic John Russell called it the most ambitious single work of a new art that has come my way since I started to live in New York. First exhibited at the Paula Cooper Gallery in 1976, Rhapsody has subsequently travelled to Dartmouth College; Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford; Documeta 6, Kassel, Germany; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi; Baltimore Museum of Art; and was included in the travelling retrospective organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, presented an exhibition of Rhapsody in October 2000 that remained on view through the middle of January 2001. In September 2006, Rhapsody was included in a major exhibition of Bartletts early plate work created between 1968 and 1976 presented by the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts (September 12, 2006January 26, 2007). A 123-page catalogue with an in-depth essay by Brenda Richardson accompanied the show. A year prior to the exhibition at the Addison, the late collector Edward R. Broida donated Rhapsody to the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Included in the 2006 exhibition Against the Grain: Contemporary Art from the Edward R. Broida Collection Bartletts Rhapsody was the second single work of art by an artist to be installed in museums Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium since Barnett Newmans Broken Obelisk (May 3July 10, 2006).
Whereas the visual language in Rhapsody juxtaposes pure abstraction and representational imageryhouses, mountains, trees, and oceansRecitative is a serial progression of non-representational colored dots, lines, and brush strokes unfolding across Bartletts trademark steel plates. Each section is organized in groupings of three or multiples thereof, repeatedly progressing in size from large to medium to small square units. The last three sections are the most expansive, jumping to forty-nine small panels of vividly painted primary, secondary and tertiary color combinations, followed by forty-five medium-sized dot plates. The last section radically breaks free of the paintings rhythmic, gridded ordera single, fluid, hand-drawn black line explodes across a group of twenty-four plates overlapping at angles.
Like much of Bartletts work, Recitative relies on a visual language reduced to the simplest form of mark-making. The subject matter, however, is not purely an exercise in geometric abstraction. In the late 1960s, influenced by Sol LeWitts manifesto Paragraphs on Conceptual Art, Bartlett began a series of conceptual experimentations that have come to define her creative process. Bartlett outlines a set of instructions that inform her paintings from beginning to end, which function as an organizing framework that reveals itself to the viewer over time. She also engages in a theoretical exercise she refers to as What if...? during her creative process, allowing some elements of chance and randomness to play a part in the work of art.
Using this self-imposed structure Bartlett achieves widely diverse compositional arrangements: rhythms and color patterns fluctuate; her use of line alternates between structured and languid; dots executed with precision become loose and painterly; her brushwork shifts between mechanical and expressive. Viewers are engulfed in a panoramic landscape of pure form and color unfolding like a musical score along the perimeter of the gallery.
Recitative was on view earlier this year at the Baldwin Gallery in Aspen, Colorado, from June 26 through July 25, 2010. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue with an essay by Kiki Jai Raj and a fold-out color plate of the work.
Jennifer Bartlett (b. 1941, Long Beach, California) came to prominence in New York in the late 1960s, early 70s, alongside fellow artists Elizabeth Murray, Chuck Close, Barry Le Va and Joe Zucker. Her iconic style is defined by an adherence to the grid structure and consistent use of baked enamel steel plates for support, among various other materials. Throughout her career, Bartlett has consistently worked in a serial nature, choosing to investigate her subjects in depth.
During a winter stay at a house in southern France in 1979, Bartlett became captivated by the garden, with its cracked swimming pool and small statue at the pools edge that she could observe from the houses dining room. She created drawings of the garden at various times of day and in changing conditions, working both on site and from memory and photographs once she had returned to the US. The series, entitled In the Garden, took nearly fifteen months to complete and grew to more than 200 works. Back in New York, Bartlett subsequently created paintings based on these drawings. In the Garden was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, and Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles, in 1981. A monograph on the series was published by Harry N. Abrams with a text by John Russell.
In 1985, the Walker Art Center organized Jennifer Bartlett, a mid-career retrospective, which subsequently travelled for the next year to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; Brooklyn Museum; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; and Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. Most recently, Ann Temkin, the Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at Museum of Modern Art, New York, included her work in Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today, an important survey show featuring approximately forty artists exploring the use of color in a contemporary framework (March 2May12, 2008).
Bartlett was awarded her first commission―a two-hundred foot mural for the Federal Building and Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia―in 1979. Swimmers, Atlanta is a nine-part painting on canvas and steel plates. Other large-scale commissions include In the Garden at Institute for Scientific Information designed by Robert Venturi, Philadelphia (1980); At Sea, Japan at Keio University, Tokyo (1980); In the Garden, a nine part installation for the dinning room of the home of Doris and Charles Saatchi, London (1981; now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston); Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean at Philip Johnsons AT&T Building, New York (1984); Volvo Commission at Volvo Corporate Headquarters by Romaldo Giurgola, Göteberg, Sweden (1984); a ceiling installation at the Homan-Ji Temple in Choshi-shi, Japan (19912); and Homan-Ji III at Reagan National Airport, Washington, D.C (19957), among others.
Her first novel, History of the Universe, was published in 1985. Written in first- and third-person and in a narrative that veers between traditional story-telling and stream of consciousness, History of the Universe is a lightly veiled autobiography told through the life of Jane Tauber Elliot, the eldest of four children born to a family living in California. History of the Universe is a detailed and colorful examination of the human experience. Many of Bartletts own friends, family and contemporaries figure prominently in chapters throughout the book. Nine years later, she collaborated with fiction writer Deborah Eisenberg to publish Art: 24 Hours, a collection of twenty-four paintings paired with text.
Among Bartletts many accolades was her induction into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1983. She has twice been awarded the Harris Prize from the Art Institute of Chicago (1976, 1986). In 2009, Bartlett was the recipient of Guild Halls Academy of the Arts 24th Annual Lifetime Achievement Award.
Jennifer Bartlett graduated from Mills College, Oakland, California, in 1963, before receiving her B.F.A. (1964) and M.F.A. (1965) from the School of Art and Architecture at Yale University. Since her first solo exhibition in 1963, she has been the subject of more than 150 one-person exhibitions and participated in approximately 450 group shows. Her work has been included in numerous Whitney Biennials (1977, 1979, and 1981) as well as the 37th Corcoran Biennial (1975). In 1980, the artist was included in Janet Kardons travelling exhibition Drawings: The Pluralist Decade, which was first presented at the American Pavilion during the 39th Venice Biennale.
Her work is part of numerous museum collections, including the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover; Akron Art Museum; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin; Baltimore Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Cleveland Museum of Art; The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu; Dallas Museum of Art; Denver Art Museum; Des Moines Art Center; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Israel Museum; Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek, Denmark; Maier Museum of Art, Virginia; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Milwaukee Art Museum; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; Parrish Art Museum, Southampton; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.; Tate Gallery; Tel Aviv Museum; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, among others.