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Posts tagged jennifer barlett

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jennifer bartlett

It is difficult to resist Jennifer Bartlett’s latest installation, Recitative, at The Pace Gallery. A continuation of Bartlett’s Rhapsody (1976), this enormous work spans three walls of the massive, garage-like gallery. Measuring roughly 11’ by 158’ and comprised of 372 baked-enamel steel plates, Recitative is the artist’s largest work to date. The effect is vibrant and electrifies the space; the viewer becomes engaged in the work, caught in a visual song composed by the artist. Approaching the piece, the viewer moves at a pace set by Bartlett - to a beat and rhythm that is inherent in the work. At the end of the first and second walls are doorways, leading into a gallery space behind Recitative, revealing additional new works by the artist. The combined effect of the two gallery spaces allows the viewer to contemplate the larger scale Recitative, offering moments to consider what he has just seen.

 I wanted to do something abstract, focused on color, and as simply as possible, and this piece evolved from that. I chose the colors in the most primitive of all fashion: the primaries, the secondaries, and the tertiaries for this piece.” Bartlett arbitrarily selects numbers of longitude and latitude from a box to determine the dimensions of the work’s structure. Using three sizes of baked-enamel steel plates as her support, which she arranges in multiples of three both vertically and horizontally, she explores color in the form of dots, dashes and lines. It is with these parameters in mind that Bartlett creates this rules-based Conceptual piece.

 Integrating the individual elements of the work presents a challenge for Bartlett, given the size and construction of the finished piece.  "I made this piece in a house the size of a quarter and I did a lot of the sections of the piece on a kitchen table. As I made sections they would be transported to New York, photographed, and then I used the photographic record to follow what I wanted to do. So it was more of an evolution while I was working section by section."  The photographs of the completed plates function as visual references while she continues her exploration, but also allow her to consider each grouping as an independent element. Each new grouping begins with the largest plates and, moving left to right, progresses through the section, or as with music, the movement. When the viewer approaches the next movement, he is able to reflect on what he has just seen as an independent element and contrast it with those plates situated before and after it.

 With each grouping, Bartlett explores color in a new way while keeping within her predetermined parameters. Dots, dashes and lines give rise to an experiment with density.  In some, the brushwork is loose with greater distance between each applied stroke. There is less calculation to these panels, demonstrated by the occasional paint drip straying down into the next dot.  Where she uses line, the application of color is reminiscent of Pollack, leaking a sense of wildness into her highly controlled work. For those groups with greater density, the color vibrates with the high concentration of dots or lines. In groups where she moves quickly between colors, the plates appear digitized, with an overall effect of pixilation.

 There is a nod to Seurat and Cezanne in Bartlett’s exploration of color. As she applies colors next to or on top of each other, the dots merge to create a new hue.  The groupings that are dominated by dots seem directly influenced by Seurat’s Pointillism, while the hash work of the piece feels akin to Cezanne’s landscapes and still lifes.  When the viewer steps closer to the work, the colors easily separate, briefly taking back their unique qualities, only to blur together once again as the viewer steps back and continues to move across the piece.

 One of the largest horizontal movements is devoted to the exploration of tonality. Keeping within a single color per vertical grouping of three, Bartlett alters the tone, frequently placing the lightest tone in the middle, with the brightest and purest form of the color at the top and the darkest at the bottom. By placing the lightest color in the middle, an unexpected volume is created as well as balance. The brightest color at the top gives the viewer a sense of verticality, drawing the eye upward and defining the silhouette of the movement. With the darkest color at the bottom a foundation is provided, firmly rooting the movement to the ground.

 Throughout the work Bartlett experiments with line, applying multiple colors to one plate. Sometimes straight, sometimes curving, the lines are always applied with a sense of intentionality.  In the final twenty-four panels, Bartlett lets go of her highly structured methods and works solely with a single black line undulating across the white panels. The remarkable and dramatic change correlates to a final aria, creating a conclusion for the work, but also leaving room for future exploration of color through dots, dashes and lines.

 As a sequel to Rhapsody, Recitative embraces Minimalism in Bartlett’s exploration of color. In Rhapsody, within each of the 987 12” by 12” baked-enamel steel plates, Bartlett uses dots to create recognizable images: trees, houses, seas and mountains. She continues to work in a grid-like pattern, again mostly with dots, but in Recitative she steps back from recognizable imagery in favor of a pure study of color using not just dots but also dashes and lines. Jennifer Bartlett’s Recitative stands on its own as a piece but it is also a logical sequel to its predecessor Rhapsody, bound together through color, medium and a bias towards dots.

(all photos by Kyle Chayka of Hyperallergic.com)

Filed under jennifer barlett conceptual art conceptualism pace gallery