by Serena Qiu
Locks Gallery is pleased to present Jennifer Bartlett’s Hospital Paintings, opening October 2nd and on view through November 14, 2015. This exhibition is accompanied by a fully-illustrated publication with an essay by poet and art critic Raphael Rubinstein.
Working from a series of snapshots taken during an extended 2012 hospital stay along the East River in Manhattan, Bartlett produced a series of pastels and then a subsequent series of oil paintings. This exhibition debuts the paintings- psychologically charged interior and exterior perspectives of the hospital, each with an interrupting colored band and the words HOSPITAL transposed atop the scene. The accompanying pastels will be the focus of a publication and exhibition from January 22 through March 20, 2016 at The Drawing Center in New York, curated by director Brett Littman.
In the essay for the accompanying publication, Rubinstein writes, “Some of the paintings in the series offer us splendid cityscapes, painted with such brio, inventiveness and feeling for the spirit of New York City that they will, I predict, instantly assume a central place in its art-historical iconography. (Perhaps not since Georgia O’Keeffe’s late 1920s paintings of views from the Shelton Hotel has the East River been given such sustained, compelling artistic attention.) Yet it is only by ignoring that word included so explicitly on every canvas, that we could define these paintings as (simply) views of a city and its surrounding natural setting. In other paintings we are shown hospital interiors featuring institutional corridors that Bartlett portrays in precise detail (note the handrails and wall-phones) even as she transforms them into vibrant, near-allegorical visions.”
Throughout her career, Bartlett’s work has maintained a signature mix of diaristic observational study of the world around her, rule-based conceptual systems for the execution of projects, and an exhaustive play with different media. The colored lines running across the canvases bring to mind similar line work in her abstract steel plate pieces and passages in her iconic Rhapsody (1975-76, collection of MoMA) and the finale of Recitative (2009-10). Including these abstract elements atop observational scenes speaks eloquently to Bartlett’s concerns of painting and of life: rejecting the distinction between abstraction and figuration and a reminder of the deeper narrative between paintings, imbuing them with Bartlett’s characteristic humanism.