"Jennifer Bartlett: In the Garden" by Kerry Bickford
The Mind in Action: Early Drawings and Plates, 1968-1975 is a survey of the seminal, pre-Rhapsody grid drawings and steel plate paintings that became Bartlett’s trademark. The serial, systems-based constructions of dots and grids allowed for near-infinite possibilities for the artist to explore.
Throughout her career, Bartlett’s work has resisted easy categorization. The early, investigative works in this exhibition relate to Minimalism and Conceptual Art while also quietly transgressing the rules that defined other works of this era. Akin to the process of her mentor Sol LeWitt, Bartlett’s plate paintings were created by following specific directions set forth by the artist herself. However, unlike LeWitt whose conceptual works are performed by others, Bartlett’s insistence on executing the work herself demonstrates a belief that the very act of mark making is integral to the artist’s investigation.
The process of creating the gridded dot paintings is grounded on a methodical system of applying dots to a one-foot square unit, but the act is not merely perfunctory. Bartlett maintained a rigorous process pairing the application of paint with periods of thoughtful reflection, often wiping the work clean and starting over if the results were unsatisfactory. The emergent work is at once logical and lyrical, minimal and expressive, and moves fluidly between abstraction and figurative representation. The series of drawings and plates created by Bartlett during this time undoubtedly led to the creation of Rhapsody, the legendary 987-plate painting that would become the pivotal work of the artist’s career.
Jennifer Losch Bartlett (b. Long Beach, CA, 1941) received her B.A. from Mills College, CA,and her B.F.A. (1964) and M.F.A. (1965) from Yale University, CT. Her works are in the collections of Baltimore Museum of Art, MD; Berkeley Art Museum, CA; Brooklyn Museum,NY; Cleveland Museum of Art, OH; Dallas Museum of Art, TX; Denver Art Museum,CO; de Young Museum, CA; Fogg Art Museum, MA; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; The Museum of Modern Art, NY; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, MO; North Carolina Museum of Art, NC; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts,PA; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; Princeton Art Museum, NJ; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, VA; Walker Art Center, MN; Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; and The Tate Gallery, London, England, among others.
Bartlett’s exhibition Jennifer Bartlett: Hospital in 2016 was the first museum exhibition of a new series of pastel drawings made in 2012. Her work was the focus of an exhibition and monograph Epic Systems: Three Monumental Paintings at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2015. Her recent retrospective History of the Universe, curated by Klaus Ottman traveled to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, PA and Parrish Art Museum, NY, with an accompanying catalog. Other solo exhibitions have taken place at the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; The Brooklyn Museum, NY; The Tate Gallery, London, England; Baltimore Art Museum, MD; and The Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT.