Jennifer Bartlett, large-scale conceptual painter, dies at 81

Jennifer Bartlett, a New York artist whose conceptual work executed on one-foot-square white enameled metal sheets (impressed by the town’s subways) blossomed into “Rhapsody,” a landmark portray extravaganza greater than 153 toes lengthy, died July 25 at her residence in Amagansett, NY She was 81.

Her demise was introduced collectively by her New York representatives, Paula Cooper Gallery and Marianne Boesky Gallery.

Her daughter, Alice Carrière, stated that whereas Bartlett had been battling dementia, the reason for demise was acute myeloid leukemia, identified in early July.

Mrs. Bartlett was an incurable loner who started as a fringe member of the post-minimalist era, the Conceptual Artwork Division, devising mathematical or geometric methods that she merely must carry out, with out additional aesthetic choices. She characterised this as a “what if?” method.

With “Rhapsody,” an vital turning level in American artwork of the late twentieth century, Ms. Bartlett the cerebral fashion of conceptualism together with his selection of medium, portray – typically to the chagrin of artists on either side of the portray/non-painting aisle. She additionally broke the wall separating abstraction and illustration, as did painters akin to Neil Jenney, Lois Lane, Susan Rothenberg and Joe Zucker. However with “Rhapsody” the break was epic, noisy and permissive.

The work was first exhibited in 1976 on the Paula Cooper Gallery in SoHo, the place its 987 plates took up all out there wall house. Later, to the shock of many, it appeared tailored for the huge atrium of the Museum of Fashionable Artwork, whose assortment it entered in 2005, a present from architect and collector Edward R. Broida.

The English critic John Russell reviewed “Rhapsody” in The New York Instances, calling it “essentially the most formidable single murals that has come my method since I started dwelling in New York.” It introduced collectively points of pop, minimalism, and conceptual and course of artwork, whereas reopening artwork to photographs, narrative, recurring patterns, appropriation, and stark juxtapositions that proceed to tell portray.

Its pictures span many types, from photorealistic to naive, with a number of modernist in between. It explores line, type and shade as ends in themselves, whereas laying out the easy themes that will preoccupy Ms. Bartlett for the remainder of her life: timber, mountains, homes and seas.

Every metal plate in “Rhapsody” was printed with a grid of quarter-inch squares, to which she added dots in accordance with no matter scheme she had arrange, generally with outcomes that appeared computer-generated.

She characterised the work as a “dialog” – “within the sense that you just begin explaining one factor after which drift off to a different matter to clarify by analogy after which come again once more.” Nevertheless it’s a tumultuous one, stuffed with interruptions and arguments and, it appears, with everybody speaking directly.

“Rhapsody” made Ms. Bartlett to a star, though it was not universally beloved. She really doubted her personal, particularly since she did not see it completed till it was put in at Paula Cooper’s. She fearful, she informed author Calvin Tomkins for a 1985 profile in The New Yorker, that the work may be the worst thought she ever had. The title “Rhapsody,” urged by a buddy, “was so terrible that I favored it,” she stated.

“The phrase urged one thing bombastic and overambitious, which appeared correct sufficient,” Tomkins quoted her as saying.

She favored to recount, as she did in a 2011 oral historical past interview for the Archives of American Artwork, how a outstanding New York curator had stated of her dotted surfaces: “It isn’t portray, it is knitting.” (The phrases echoed Truman Capote’s dismissal of Jack Kerouac’s “spontaneous” prose – “It isn’t writing, it is writing.”)

In New York within the Seventies and 80s, Ms. Bartlett one of many first artists of her era to reside off her work, which she did generally lavishly and generally not—price range was not a part of her vocabulary—whereas typically serving to family and friends members in want. She was additionally one of many first to work instantly with out-of-town sellers slightly than by way of her New York representatives.

As New York’s consideration waned within the Nineties, she developed an intensive community of galleries in different cities, mounting quite a few reveals of latest work. At Locks Gallery in Philadelphia alone, she had over 20 solo exhibitions from 1994 to 2021, often accompanied by catalogues.

Mrs. Bartlett took a 20-year hiatus from exhibiting on Paula Cooper starting in 1996; throughout that interval she not often confirmed in New York and, when she did, often hopped from gallery to gallery. Her work appeared extra in style – and marketable – exterior of the New York artwork world. In 2016, Bartlett resumed the present with Ms. Cooper, who teamed up with Ms. Boesky 2018.

Mrs. Bartlett was a stylishly dressed, opinionated, immensely prolific artist. Though she appeared to spend so much of time mendacity on a sofa with a cigarette in a single hand and a drink within the different, she stated she would go loopy if she could not work. And work she did: painted, printed, and drew, particularly in pastels, and designed furnishings, glass, and jewellery, with restricted makes an attempt at set design and costume design.

With all this she discovered time to learn voraciously; give lengthy, entertaining interviews; write an autobiographical novel, “A Historical past of the Universe”; and performs a serious position within the transforming and furnishing of three giant residential residences in New York Metropolis: two in Decrease Manhattan—a big loft on Lafayette Road and a cast-concrete industrial constructing on Charles Road (to which she added an intricate backyard designed with Madison Cox and a top-floor pool)—and one in Brooklyn, a former union corridor in Fort Greene, whose formidable backyard of specimen timber featured giant rocks that went in on a flatbed.

Throughout her marriage to the German actor Mathieu Carrière, from 1983 to 1993, she lived half the yr in a big Paris house – virtually fully furnished in modernist designs by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto – in a constructing the place “Final Tango in Paris” was filmed, as she not often failed to inform anybody who visited.

Mrs. Bartlett was as systematic in his life as in his artwork. When she arrived in New York within the late Sixties, she eschewed bohemianism, sporting pearls, jumpers and poodle skirts in tartan wool, the plaids of which regularly figured in work as veritable grids. For an extended interval, starting within the late Seventies, she solely wore Zoran’s minimalist fashions and later Ronaldus Shamask’s. Nearly with out variation, she wore her hair brief or bobbed with bangs.

She beloved lists; her novel included a number of. Early in her profession, she made lists of artwork concepts after which marked off these she thought different artists “owned”. And, in her barely brassy, ​​ironic monotone, she typically talked lists.

Originally of an interview in 1985, Ms. Bartlett’s buddy and fellow painter Elizabeth Murray informed her what she was considering after they met in 1962 as college students at Mills Faculty in Oakland, California. She replied: “Being an artist, Ed. Bartlett, Bach’s cello suites, Cézanne, stepping into graduate faculty, attending to New York, Albert Camus, James Joyce.”

She was born Jennifer Ann Losch in Lengthy Seaside, California, on March 14, 1941, to Edward and Joanne (Chaffee) Losch. Her father was an entrepreneur whose most important enterprise was a pipeline firm; her mom had attended the Otis Artwork Institute in Los Angeles and labored as a trend illustrator till she had kids.

Jennifer, the oldest of 4, was precocious. She drew consistently, starting in childhood; beloved the ocean and swam in it frequently (she additionally drew giant renderings of sea creatures); discovered inspiration in his mom’s solely artwork guide, on French Submit-Impressionism; and was enthralled by a Van Gogh exhibit she noticed in Los Angeles. She got here out of highschool decided to be a painter.

After graduating from Mills in 1964, Ms. Bartlett with Edward Bartlett, a Stanford graduate, and the 2 went to Yale for graduate faculty, he in medication and he or she in artwork. (They divorced in 1972.) In Yale’s artwork division, present college students, latest graduates, and their pals included a number of the most formidable and aggressive artists of her era: Brice Marden, Richard Serra, Joel Shapiro, Chuck Shut, Lynda Benglis, and Nancy Gravar. After transferring to Greene Road in SoHo within the late Sixties, she befriended artists Joe Zucker, Jonathan Borofsky, John Torreano, Joe Brainard and Alan Saret, who staged her first New York solo present in his Spring Road loft .

When she arrived in New York, Ms. Bartlett, impressed by the artwork of main conceptualist Sol LeWitt, methods on graph paper, which she often broken or worn out. At some point it dawned on her that New York Metropolis’s subway indicators “stand as much as a variety of punishment,” she stated in her archive interview. They urged, she stated, “a tough graph paper that was impenetrable to me.”

The 12-inch sq. slabs based mostly on the indicators had the added comfort of being small items that had been straightforward to work on, pack and transport, however might additionally assume a monumental scale when put in. She favored the lasting “freshness” of the enamelled metal, she stated; it could not bodily age or look dated. As soon as she labored out the fabrication of the metal plates with a small fabricator in New Jersey, she destroyed her earlier work.

Her lattice panels represented Ms. Bartlett’s consuming curiosity within the mechanics of portray, and he or she would use them for the remainder of her life, as in two extra epic sheet music items, “Recitative” (2007) and “Music” (2009-10).

She additionally expanded her materials. Her subsequent main undertaking after “Rhapsody” was “Within the Backyard,” a collection of almost 200 drawings of a dilapidated backyard behind a small villa in Good, France, the place she spent the winter of 1979-80. These works turned the idea for big work — on plates, oil on canvas and enamel on glass — and a number of other completely different sorts of prints.

“Within the Backyard” was additionally vital as a result of Bartlett labored from life, significantly her quick environment, together with, ultimately, her studios, her residence and her personal gardens. 1991-92 “Air: 24 Hours” consists of 24 giant canvases, every depicting certainly one of these areas at a selected hour of the day. She depicted her dwelling areas as soon as once more in 1992-93 with “24 Hours: Elegy”, often together with a garment or a toy belonging to her daughter. In these works, dense constructions of hand-painted grids create a granular environment harking back to these created by Georges Seurat’s dots.

In 2012, a hospital keep of a number of weeks resulted – attributable to what her daughter, Ms. Carrière, described as “a collection of signs that by no means fairly coalesced right into a analysis” — in “The Hospital Work,” an uncharacteristically stark, practical group of 10 canvases. Every was disturbed by a thick, arbitrary line of shade working edge to edge.

Along with her daughter, Ms. Bartlett by his sister, Julie Losch Matsumoto.

Mrs. Bartlett, unabashedly assured and unbiased, was typically requested about her views on feminism, as she was in 2011 for the Archives of American Artwork. In that case, she replied: “I am not naturally the feminist kind. I simply needed to be the very best artist.”

About the author


Leave a Comment