JENNIFER BARTLETT: RECITATIVE
A single painting comprised of 372 steel plates and measuring more than 158 feet will
be on view in New York for the first time in January 2011
NEW YORK, December 15, 2010—The Pace Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition by Jennifer
Bartlett, who will install a single painting that stretches more than 158 feet along three gallery walls.
Recitative, comprised of 372 steel plates, is an epic exploration of color, painted in a style reflecting the
reductive language of Minimalism and the rule-based systems of Conceptualism. Installed at Pace’s 545
West 22nd Street gallery, Jennifer Bartlett: Recitative will be on view from January 12 through
February 26, 2011. The artist will be present for an opening reception on Tuesday, January 11th
from 6 to 8 p.m.
Recitative, 2009–10, is Jennifer Bartlett’s largest work to date in terms of running feet and her third largescale
painting. Recitative relates directly to Bartlett’s earlier installations, Rhapsody (1976), which is in
the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Song (2007), in the permanent
collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art. According to the writer Kiki Jai Raj, “Recitative is a deeper
analysis of the color explication in Rhapsody, with the next step: line, only introduced as a character at the
very end. The movements of color notation build and overlap like musical themes.”
Rhapsody, which Bartlett began in May 1975 and completed and exhibited the following spring,
was the tour de force that catapulted her to international recognition. The New York Times critic
John Russell called it “the most ambitious single work of a new art that has come my way since I
started to live in New York.” First exhibited at the Paula Cooper Gallery in 1976, Rhapsody has
subsequently travelled to Dartmouth College; Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati; Wadsworth
Atheneum, Hartford; Documeta 6, Kassel, Germany; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Art
Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi; Baltimore Museum of Art; and was included in the
travelling retrospective organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. The Museum of Fine
Arts, Houston, presented an exhibition of Rhapsody in October 2000 that remained on view
through the middle of January 2001. In September 2006, Rhapsody was included in a major
exhibition of Bartlett’s early plate work created between 1968 and 1976 presented by the Addison Gallery
of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts (September 12, 2006–January 26, 2007). A 123-page catalogue
with an in-depth essay by Brenda Richardson accompanied the show. A year prior to the exhibition at the
Addison, the late collector Edward R. Broida donated Rhapsody to the Museum of Modern Art,
New York. Included in the 2006 exhibition Against the Grain: Contemporary Art from the
Edward R. Broida Collection Bartlett’s Rhapsody was the second single work of art by an artist to
be installed in museum’s Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium since Barnett Newman’s Broken
Obelisk (May 3–July 10, 2006).
Whereas the visual language in Rhapsody juxtaposes pure abstraction and representational
imagery—houses, mountains, trees, and oceans—Recitative is a serial progression of nonrepresentational
colored dots, lines, and brush strokes unfolding across Bartlett’s trademark steel
plates. Each section is organized in groupings of three or multiples thereof, repeatedly
progressing in size from large to medium to small square units. The last three sections are the
most expansive, jumping to forty-nine small panels of vividly painted primary, secondary and
tertiary color combinations, followed by forty-five medium-sized dot plates. The last section
radically breaks free of the painting’s rhythmic, gridded order—a single, fluid, hand-drawn black
line explodes across a group of twenty-four plates overlapping at angles.
Like much of Bartlett’s work, Recitative relies on a visual language reduced to the simplest form
of mark-making. The subject matter, however, is not purely an exercise in geometric abstraction.
In the late 1960s, influenced by Sol LeWitt’s manifesto “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” Bartlett
began a series of conceptual experimentations that have come to define her creative process.
Bartlett outlines a set of instructions that inform her paintings from beginning to end, which
function as an organizing framework that reveals itself to the viewer over time. She also engages
in a theoretical exercise she refers to as “What if...?” during her creative process, allowing some
elements of chance and randomness to play a part in the work of art.
Using this self-imposed structure Bartlett achieves widely diverse compositional arrangements:
rhythms and color patterns fluctuate; her use of line alternates between structured and languid;
dots executed with precision become loose and painterly; her brushwork shifts between
mechanical and expressive. Viewers are engulfed in a panoramic landscape of pure form and
color unfolding like a musical score along the perimeter of the gallery.
Recitative was on view earlier this year at the Baldwin Gallery in Aspen, Colorado, from June 26 through
July 25, 2010. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue with an essay by Kiki Jai Raj and a foldout
color plate of the work.
Jennifer Bartlett (b. 1941, Long Beach, California) came to prominence in New York in the late
1960s, early 70s, alongside fellow artists Elizabeth Murray, Chuck Close, Barry Le Va and Joe
Zucker. Her iconic style is defined by an adherence to the grid structure and consistent use of
baked enamel steel plates for support, among various other materials. Throughout her career,
Bartlett has consistently worked in a serial nature, choosing to investigate her subjects in depth.
During a winter stay at a house in southern France in 1979, Bartlett became captivated by the garden, with
its cracked swimming pool and small statue at the pool’s edge that she could observe from the house’s
dining room. She created drawings of the garden at various times of day and in changing conditions,
working both on site and from memory and photographs once she had returned to the US. The series,
entitled In the Garden, took nearly fifteen months to complete and grew to more than 200 works. Back in
New York, Bartlett subsequently created paintings based on these drawings. In the Garden was the
subject of a solo exhibition at the Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, and Margo Leavin Gallery, Los
Angeles, in 1981. A monograph on the series was published by Harry N. Abrams with a text by John
In 1985, the Walker Art Center organized Jennifer Bartlett, a mid-career retrospective, which
subsequently travelled for the next year to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; Brooklyn
Museum; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; and Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. Most
recently, Ann Temkin, the Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at Museum of Modern Art, New York,
included her work in Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today, an important survey show featuring
approximately forty artists exploring the use of color in a contemporary framework (March 2–May12,
Bartlett was awarded her first commission―a two-hundred foot mural for the Federal Building and
Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia―in 1979. Swimmers, Atlanta is a nine-part painting on canvas and steel
plates. Other large-scale commissions include In the Garden at Institute for Scientific Information
designed by Robert Venturi, Philadelphia (1980); At Sea, Japan at Keio University, Tokyo (1980); In the
Garden, a nine part installation for the dinning room of the home of Doris and Charles Saatchi, London
(1981; now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston); Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean at
Philip Johnson’s AT&T Building, New York (1984); Volvo Commission at Volvo Corporate Headquarters
by Romaldo Giurgola, Göteberg, Sweden (1984); a ceiling installation at the Homan-Ji Temple in Choshishi,
Japan (1991–2); and Homan-Ji III at Reagan National Airport, Washington, D.C (1995–7), among
Her first novel, History of the Universe, was published in 1985. Written in first- and third-person and in a
narrative that veers between traditional story-telling and stream of consciousness, History of the Universe
is a lightly veiled autobiography told through the life of Jane Tauber Elliot, the eldest of four children born
to a family living in California. History of the Universe is a detailed and colorful examination of the
human experience. Many of Bartlett’s own friends, family and contemporaries figure prominently in
chapters throughout the book. Nine years later, she collaborated with fiction writer Deborah Eisenberg to
publish Art: 24 Hours, a collection of twenty-four paintings paired with text.
Among Bartlett’s many accolades was her induction into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and
Letters in 1983. She has twice been awarded the Harris Prize from the Art Institute of Chicago (1976,
1986). In 2009, Bartlett was the recipient of Guild Hall’s Academy of the Arts 24th Annual Lifetime
Jennifer Bartlett graduated from Mills College, Oakland, California, in 1963, before receiving her B.F.A.
(1964) and M.F.A. (1965) from the School of Art and Architecture at Yale University. Since her first solo
exhibition in 1963, she has been the subject of more than 150 one-person exhibitions and participated in
approximately 450 group shows. Her work has been included in numerous Whitney Biennials (1977,
1979, and 1981) as well as the 37th Corcoran Biennial (1975). In 1980, the artist was included in Janet
Kardon’s travelling exhibition Drawings: The Pluralist Decade, which was first presented at the
American Pavilion during the 39th Venice Biennale.
Her work is part of numerous museum collections, including the Addison Gallery of American Art,
Andover; Akron Art Museum; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Allen Memorial Art Museum,
Oberlin; Baltimore Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Cleveland Museum of Art; The
Contemporary Museum, Honolulu; Dallas Museum of Art; Denver Art Museum; Des Moines Art Center;
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Israel Museum; Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek, Denmark; Maier
Museum of Art, Virginia; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Milwaukee Art Museum; Modern
Art Museum of Fort Worth; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston;
Museum of Modern Art, New York; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; Parrish Art Museum,
Southampton; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.; Tate
Gallery; Tel Aviv Museum; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Whitney Museum of American Art, New
York, and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, among others.
For more information about Jennifer Bartlett: Recitative, please contact the gallery’s press office
at 212.421.8987. For general inquiries, please email email@example.com; for press
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