Jennifer Bartlett

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Jennifer Bartlett
'Houses', --serigraph-- by --Jennifer Bartlett--, 2005.jpg
'Houses', serigraph by Jennifer Bartlett, 2005
Jennifer Losch

(1941-03-14) March 14, 1941 (age 80)
EducationMills College, Yale School of Art and Architecture
Known forPainting

Jennifer Losch Bartlett (born March 14, 1941) is an American artist. She is known for paintings and prints that combine the system-based aesthetic of Conceptual art with the painterly approach of Neo-expressionism. Many of her pieces are executed on small, square, enamel-coated steel plates that are combined in grid formations to create very large works.

Family and education[edit]

Bartlett was born Jennifer Losch in 1941 in Long Beach, California, one of four children.[1] Her father owned a construction company and her mother was a fashion illustrator who left the field to raise her children.[1][2] She grew up in the suburbs of Long Beach, close enough to the ocean that she developed an affinity for water which would reappear in her mature work.[1] She attended Mills College in Oakland, California, graduating with a BA in 1963.[3] During her college years she met Elizabeth Murray who became a lifelong friend.[4] She then moved to New Haven to study at the Yale School of Art and Architecture[3] at a time when Minimalism was the dominant style. She studied with Josef Albers, Jack Tworkov, Jim Dine, and Richard Serra, receiving her MFA in 1965.[5][6]

Bartlett has described the experience of study at Yale as her broadest influence: "I'd walked into my life".[7] In a 2005 interview with the sculptor Elizabeth Murray, she gave this list of things that she said had been on her mind as a first-year art student:[7]

Being an artist, Ed Bartlett, Bach cello suites, Cézanne, getting into graduate school, getting to New York, Albert Camus, James Joyce. I’d drawn constantly since childhood: large drawings of every creature alive in the ocean; Spanish missions with Indians camping in the foreground, in the background Spanish men throwing cowhides over a cliff to a waiting ship; hundreds of Cinderellas on five-by-eight pads, all alike but with varying hair color and dresses.[7]

Among Bartlett's early influences were the painter Arshile Gorky, whose drawing she admired, Piet Mondrian, for the sense of stillness in the work, and Sol LeWitt, for his conceptual systematics.[5]

After marrying medical student Ed Bartlett in 1964, she commuted between the Soho district of New York and New Haven, where she taught at the University of Connecticut.[1][7] Following her 1972 divorce, Bartlett moved to New York full-time and began teaching at the School of Visual Arts.[1] In 1983 she married German actor Mathieu Carrière, with whom she had a daughter, Alice; they divorced in the early 1990s.[1][8]


House with Open Door, oil on canvas, wood paint and steel, Honolulu Museum of Art

Bartlett is best known for her paintings and prints in which familiar subjects — ranging from houses and gardens to oceans and skies — are executed in a style that combines elements of both representational and abstract art; indeed, she has commented that she does not accept a distinction between figurative and abstract art.[7] She often works in serial form or creates polyptychs, and she frequently devises rule systems that guide the variations within a given group of works,[7] requiring us to focus on "perception, on process, on the effect of shifting perspective— and on the leaps that take place in our minds no matter how rational we may think we are".[9] In the late 1960s, influenced by the work of John Cage, she started bringing chance elements into her work.[5]

Her realistic works favor mundane subjects, such as modest houses.[10] Her installations often consist of multiple canvases as well as three dimensional objects. House with Open Door from 1988, in the collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art, consists of an oil paint on canvas diptych and the same house constructed out of wood. The Dallas Museum of Art, the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Museum of Modern Art (New York City), the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Modern, and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York City) are among the public collections holding her work.[11]

Most critics see Bartlett's work as inventive, energetic, wide-ranging, and ambitious,[1][9][12] and she has been called one of the two best painters of the Postminimalism generation.[9] One writer has noted that a central paradox of her work is that Bartlett has taken the controlled, rationalist grid favored by Conceptual artists and used it to release an evocative torrent of imagery that has much in common with the Neo-expressionist work of the 1980s and that owes a debt to Impressionism as well.[9] A few critics find her work shallow, overly focused on surface, and weakened by its eclecticism.[9][13] She has had several retrospectives and survey exhibitions, the first in 1985 originating at the Brooklyn Museum (New York) and more recent ones in 2011 at the Museum of Modern Art (New York) and 2014 at the Parrish Art Museum (New York).

Early experiments[edit]

Early on, Bartlett made a number of three-dimensional works that she subjected to extreme conditions such as freezing and smashing.[7] She also realized that she wanted something to draw on that was erasable but gridded like the graph paper that she and many other Conceptual artists were using at the time.[7] She came up with what is now one of her signature materials: foot-square steel plates with a plain white baked enamel surface on which was silkscreened a quarter-inch grid.[7] She had these fabricated in large quantities, and later worked with other sizes as well.[7]

Rhapsody (1975–76)[edit]

With her earliest well-known work, Rhapsody, Bartlett reinvented the mural form for Conceptual art.[7][12] Rhapsody is a painting executed on 987 foot-square enamel-coated steel tiles arranged in a grid 7 plates tall by roughly 142 wide, extending across multiple walls. The subject matter consists of variations on what Bartlett felt were the basic elements of art: four universal motifs (house, tree ocean, mountain), geometric forms (line, circle, triangle, square), and color (25 shades).[7][12] The seven sections are entitled "Introduction", "Mountain", "Line", "House", "Tree", "Shape", and "Ocean".[14]

Rhapsody has been called an "extended portable mural"[1] and a "post-painting painting"[12] that "took the American art world by storm".[1] According to critic Roberta Smith, Rhapsody is an epic achievement that brought together elements of Photorealism, geometric abstraction, and pattern painting while also prefiguring 1980s Neo-expressionism.[12] It is so large that Bartlett has commented that she never saw the piece as a whole until its first public exhibition.[5] Bartlett has said of Rhapsody that it "opened the wall up instead of closing it down. It looks bigger than it really is.... It’s my way of making edgeless paintings."[5] It has been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art (New York).[15]

Subsequent series such as In the Garden and Amagansett have become more painterly while still retaining their systematizing rigor.[9] Around 2004, she began including fragments of text — phrases, bits of dialogue, dreams — in some of her paintings.[5][15]

At Sea, Japan (1980)[edit]

In 1980, Bartlett began to work on a complex print project in collaboration with master printers in Japan. The result was At Sea, Japan, a waterscape printed on paper whose 6 panels span 8 feet in width. The image is built up from 96 screenprints and 86 color woodcuts.[16]

In the Garden series (1979–83)[edit]

In the Garden is a series of over 200 drawings (and later paintings and prints) that all take as their subject the garden behind a villa in Nice, France, where Bartlett stayed in the winter of 1979-1980. Bartlett uses a few major motifs — an old swimming pool, a statue of a urinating boy, a row of cypresses — to explore perspective, scale, and changing light conditions.[17] The drawings range from pencil sketches to pastels and gouaches executed in a range of styles, and many are diptychs or triptychs.[18][17] She later made her backyard garden in Brooklyn, New York, the focus of a similar series of diptychs.[17]

Sea Wall (1985)[edit]

With Sea Wall, Bartlett brought together oil painting and sculpture. The piece consists of a large painting of houses and boats on a dark ground, in front of which are placed sculptural versions of those same objects.[9]

Air: 24 Hours (1994)[edit]

A collaboration between Bartlett and the fiction writer Deborah Eisenberg, Air: 24 Hours first appeared as a book of 24 paintings by Bartlett with accompanying text by Eisenberg.[19] Each painting shows a scene in Bartlett's house at a particular hour of the day.[17]

Amagansett series (2007–08)[edit]

Amagansett is a series of oil paintings that take the ocean, skies, and seaside landscapes of Long Island as their subject. They are painted in a distinctive cross-hatched style in a limited palette favoring blues, greens, grays, and browns. Some pieces are diptychs in which Bartlett explores the shifts visible in a landscape between two moments of time or seen from two slightly different angles of view.[20]

Element from the Swimmers Atlanta at the Russell Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse, Atlanta, Georgia, 2009.


In 1981, Bartlett created Swimmers Atlanta, a 200-foot multimedia mural for the Federal Building in Atlanta, Georgia. She has since completed commissions for Volvo, AT&T, Saatchi & Saatchi, Information Sciences Institute, and Battery Park.[3][5]

Selected exhibitions[edit]

  • Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, 1976. Rhapsody.[1]
  • New Image Painting, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1978.[1]
  • Clocktower Gallery (Clocktower_Productions), New York, 1979
  • Whitney Biennial, 1981.[1]
  • Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, 1984.[9]
  • Brooklyn Museum, New York, 1985. 15 Year Retrospective. Touring retrospective.[9]
  • Walker Art Center, 1986. Touring exhibition.[13]
  • Orlando Museum of Art, 1993. Touring retrospective of prints.[1]
  • Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, 1994. Recent Works from the AIR: 24 Hours Series.
  • Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, 2000. Islands and Oceans.
  • Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, 2004. At Sea.
  • Addison Gallery of American Art, 2006. Early Plate Work.[5]
  • Pace Gallery, New York, 2011. Recitative (2009–10).[21]
  • Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, 2011. The Studio Inside Out.
  • Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2011. Rhapsody and other works.
  • Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, 2012, "Addresses (1976-1978)"Adresses
  • Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, 2013, "Chaos Theory" Chaos Theory
  • Parrish Art Museum, 2014. Jennifer Bartlett: History of the Universe — Works 1970-2011. Touring survey.
  • Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, 2015. In the GardenIn the Garden
  • Paula Cooper Gallery, 2016.

Honors and collections[edit]

Most recently, Bartlett has been a recipient of the Francis J. Greenburger Award (2019).[22] Bartlett has received the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award (1983) and the American Institute of Architects Award (1986).[1] She was elected into the National Academy of Design in 1990 and became a full member in 1994.[23]

Bartlett's work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Guggenheim Museum (New York), the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), the Tate Gallery (London), and other institutions.[24]

Her image is included in the iconic 1972 poster Some Living American Women Artists by Mary Beth Edelson.[25]

Bartlett has lived in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Paris and as of 2014 lived in Amagansett on Long Island.[5][26][2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Kort, Carol, and Liz Sonneborn. A to Z of American Women in the Visual Arts. Facts on File, 2002, pp. 17–19.
  2. ^ a b Small, Michael. "Jennifer Bartlett Builds a Hot Career Out of Ship Shapes and House Work". People, Aug. 5, 1985.
  3. ^ a b c "Oral history interview with Jennifer Bartlett, 1987 June–September". Oral history interviews. Archives of American Art. 2011. Retrieved 29 June 2011.
  4. ^ Smith, Roberta (2007-08-13). "Elizabeth Murray, 66, Artist of Vivid Forms, Dies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-02-12.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Jennifer Bartlett with Phong Bui" (Interview). Brooklyn Rail, July 11, 2011.
  6. ^ Handy, Amy (1989). "Artist's Biographies - Jennifer Bartlett". In Randy Rosen; Catherine C. Brower (eds.). Making Their Mark. Women Artists Move into the Mainstream, 1970-1985. Abbeville Press. p. 239. ISBN 0-89659-959-0.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Murray, Elizabeth. "Jennifer Bartlett". Bomb, no. 93, Fall 2005.
  8. ^ Colman, David. "Out of the Sandbox and Into Fashion, All by Age 7". New York Times, Oct. 20, 1996.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Brenson, Michael. "Art: Jennifer Bartlett, 15 Year Retrospective". New York Times, Nov. 29, 1965.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Locks Gallery, Philadelphia
  12. ^ a b c d e Smith, Roberta. "Jennifer Bartlett's Epic Rhapsody Back on View at the Modern". ArtBeat, April 29, 2011.
  13. ^ a b Wilson, William. "Jennifer Bartlett's Self-Absorbed Yuppie Art". Los Angeles Times, Feb. 23, 1986.
  14. ^ "Jennifer Bartlett: Rhapsody". Museum of Modern Art website.
  15. ^ a b Sheets, Hilarie M. "Organizing an Organizer's Life: Jennifer Bartlett Gets a Museum Retrospective". New York Times, June 20, 2013.
  16. ^ Roberta. "Frame|Work: At Sea, Japan by Jennifer Bartlett". Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco website, March 2012.
  17. ^ a b c d Bickford, Kerry. "Jennifer Bartlett: In the Garden". Title, September 2014.
  18. ^ Glueck, Grace. "Art: Garden Drawings by Jennifer Bartlett". New York Times, Jan. 23, 1981.
  19. ^ Cuoco, Lorin, ed. The Dual Muse: The Writer as Artist, the Artist as Writer. John Benjamins Publishing, 1999, p. 10.
  20. ^ Quinlan, Cathy Nan. "Jennifer Bartlett and Me". Talking Pictures, May 10, 2016.
  21. ^ Morgan, Robert C. (February 2011). "Jennifer Bartlett's Recitative: Fractions Between Concept and Decorum". The Brooklyn Rail.
  22. ^ "Francis J. Greenburger Awards 2019". Art Omi. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  23. ^ "National Academicians - Bartlett, Jennifer Losch". National Academy Museum. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  24. ^ "Jennifer Barlett". ArtCyclopedia.
  25. ^ "Some Living American Women Artists/Last Supper". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  26. ^ Hay, R. Couri. "How Amagansett Inspired Jennifer Bartlett's Work". Hamptons, July 11, 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bartlett, Jennifer. In the Garden. Abrams, 1982. (With John Russell)
  • Bartlett, Jennifer. History of the Universe: A Novel. Nimbus Books, 1985.
  • Bartlett, Jennifer. "A Peaceable Kingdom." In Cuoco, Lorin, ed. The Dual Muse: The Writer as Artist, the Artist as Writer. John Benjamins Publishing, 1999, pp. 49–68.
  • Eisenberg, Deborah. Air: 24 Hours: Jennifer Bartlett. New York: Abrams, 1994.
  • Goldwater, Marge, Jennifer Bartlett. New York: Abbeville Press, 1985.
  • Katz, Vincent. "Bartlett Shows Her Colors." Art in America, January 2007, 106-111.
  • Ottmann, Klaus, and Terrie Sultan. Jennifer Bartlett: History of the Universe — Works 1970-2011. Parrish Art Museum, 2013.
  • Richardson, Brenda. Jennifer Bartlett: Early Plate Work. Andover, Massachusetts: Addison Gallery of American Art, 2006.
  • Scott, Sue A. Jennifer Bartlett: A Print Retrospective. Orlando, Florida: Orlando Museum of Art, 1993.
  • Van der Marck, Jan. Reconnecting: Recent Work by Jennifer Bartlett. Detroit, Michigan: Founders Society, Detroit Institute of Arts, 1987.
  • Smith, Roberta. Rhapsody. Abrams, 1985.
  • Locks Gallery Publications

External links[edit]