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New York painter dies at 81 – ARTnews.com

By on July 26, 2022 0

Jennifer Bartlett, whose experiments in subjugating painting to predetermined systems of rules had won her a loyal following, died on July 25 in Amagansett, New York, at age 81. A representative of the Paula Cooper Gallery, which offered Bartlett some of his early exhibitions, confirmed this. death.

Bartlett’s paintings are quite different from almost any others done by artists of her generation, and for this reason they have always made her a special artist in the eyes of many. She found unique ways to adapt abstraction to an era of minimalism without going all out in conceptual art. At the same time, she also managed the delicate balancing act of working in a semi-abstract mode without completely abandoning figuration.

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His subjects were very varied. She has created abstractions arranged in vast, epic grids that span huge walls as well as more picturesque images that are much smaller. She painted everyday images of hospital lobbies and dazzling landscapes composed of checkered dabs of paint. She even produced one of the few 9/11 images that explicitly depicts the day’s events.

“One of the best-known painters of her generation, Bartlett seamlessly combined the refined aesthetic of minimalism with expressive and emotional painting, and leaves behind a vast and varied body of work,” Paula Cooper Gallery and Marianne Boesky Gallery, her two representatives from New York. , said in a joint statement.

Many critics viewed Bartlett’s breakthrough as Rhapsody (1975-1976), a gridded arrangement of paintings that, when fully installed, spans over 150 feet of space. Some images combine to form simple natural elements like a mountain or an ocean, others evoke neat juxtapositions between curved lines. Taken as a whole, the piece represents “everything”, as Bartlett once said.

Large gallery with an abstract painting arranged in a grid on its walls.

Jennifer Bartlet, Rhapsody1975–76.

Photo John Wronn/Museum of Modern Art

The work is emblematic of Bartlett’s unusual pictorial process. She eschewed canvas for baked steel sheets, all 12 inches square, and oil paint for enamel, which is more commonly associated with hobbies than fine art. The pieces were individually produced at Bartlett’s studios on Long Island and Manhattan, and she would make a decision within a day of making them whether she liked them or not. Although their images often seem mundane, she spent hours in libraries researching the nature she depicted.

Almost immediately after his exhibition at the Paula Cooper Gallery, Rhapsody was seen as a major work. New York Times John Russell review called the room “the most ambitious work of new art that has come to me since I started living in New York”.

When it was exhibited in 1976, Sidney Singer, a Westchester collector who had yet to build a major collection, bought the set for $45,000, a sum that a 1985 New Yorker profile of Bartlett described as “astronomical”. (She didn’t want the artwork broken and “never really thought it could be sold intact.”)

Singer then sold the painting, and it was purchased in the 1990s for over $1 million from Edward R. Broida, a real estate developer who later devoted his time to collecting art. She kept part of this relatively large sum, which came at a time when she had no official representation in the gallery. Before his death in 2006Broida donated nearly 200 works, including Rhapsody, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which gave it pride of place in an airy atrium during its 2019 collection rehang.

Jennifer Bartlett was born in 1941 in Long Beach, California, to a construction company owner father and a fashion illustrator mother. Her parents had a clear vision for her: “I think my mom would have liked me to get a job at Hallmark Cards, paint on the side, get married happily, have kids, and live in Long Beach,” she said. Told People. But Bartlett’s goal was to move far away, to New York, and become an artist there.

Having effectively nurtured her own interest in painting, depicting Cinderella hundreds of times as a child, she studied art at Mills College in Oakland as an undergraduate. She then went to Yale University for an MFA and met medical student Edward Bartlett, whom she married. Their marriage eventually fell apart as Jennifer tried to gain a foothold on the New York scene while Edward focused on his career in Connecticut.

Portrait of Jennifer Bartlett kneeling on the floor in front of a grid chart.

Jennifer Bartlett, 1975.

Courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery

In Manhattan, Bartlett maintained a studio in SoHo and she befriended artists such as Elizabeth Murray, Jonathan Borofsky and Barry LeVa. In 1970, she made her New York debut in the apartment of Alan Saret, who was a well-known artist at the time. She exhibited some of her early work which had been done specifically avoiding certain colors – “I felt no need for orange or violence, but I needed green”, she once told Calvin Tomkins – and by combining and recombining these shades using systems of its own design.

“What she was doing rang like concept art: it used mathematical systems to determine the location of its points,” Tomkins wrote. “But the results – all those bright, astringent colored dots bouncing and forming in clusters on the grid – never seemed conceptual.”

Bartlett herself put it in an even simpler way in a 2013 interview with the New York Times“The grid is not an aesthetic thing, really. It is a method of organization. I like to organize things. Anything.”

Comparisons between Bartlett’s art of the 70s and other art forms are common. Critic Hal Foster has drawn similarities between these paintings and music; others have seen alignments between Bartlett’s writing – she wrote a 1985 memoir titled The story of the universe– and his paintings. But Bartlett herself ignored all of these comparisons.

During the 1970s and 80s, Bartlett achieved a level of fame that was rare at the time for female painters in the United States. She earned a coveted placement in the 1977 edition of Documenta in Kassel, Germany, and in 1980 her work was featured in the American pavilion at the Venice Biennale. In 1985 she had a retrospective which began at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and traveled across the country. Paula Cooper, one of New York’s top dealers, continued to give Bartlett many exhibitions, as did the Locks Gallery in Philadelphia from the 1990s.

Painting of koi fish swimming in a dark pond amid water lilies.

Jennifer Bartlet, Air: 24 hours, 5:00 p.m.1991–92.

Corbis/VCG via Getty Images/Metropolitan Museum of Art

His work is increasingly concerned with the natural world. His series 1980-83″In the gardenis the result of an attempt to image a garden in a villa in Nice, France, approximately 200 times, with each interpretation from a different point of view. She also began working on large-scale commissions, including Pacific Ocean (1984), a 30-foot-long painting of waves crashing against a shore made for AT&T that was executed in a photorealistic style, sometimes making it appear like an image taken by a camera.

The ocean and beaches would become recurring subjects in his work, notably reappearing in a 2007 series “Amagansett,” featuring views of this Long Island town that are superimposed with grids that appear to shake.

The passage of time was another interest that frequently appeared in Bartlett’s art. His 1991-1992 “AIR: 24 Hours” series is a cycle of paintings that attempts to chart a day in and around Bartlett’s studio in Manhattan. The dancers parade in the street at 5 a.m.; a crate is unpacked at 11 a.m.; koi fish writhing under water lilies at 5 p.m. Shifts in perspective abound.

Along the way, she hasn’t strayed far from the formula that made her famous, showing off a 158-foot-long piece similar to Rhapsody at the Pace Gallery in 2011. Titled Recitativeit was hailed as “a deeper meditation on the digital age than any number of so-called digital works of art” by Jeff Frederick in Art in America. A retrospective featuring works similar to this one was shown at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art and the Parrish Art Museum two years later.

Despite the haughty concepts art historians have pinned on Bartlett’s paintings, she has always described her process as somewhat intuitive.

“I spent 30 years trying to convince people and myself that I was smart, that I was a good painter, that I was this or that,” she told painter Elizabeth Murray during a BOMB interview in 2005. “It’s not going to happen. The only person this should happen to is me. That’s what I was supposed to do.

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