Art 2 – Jennifer Bartlett and the Divided Picture Plane – Due 5/2


Look at the link below to Jennifer Bartlett’s work at the Richard Gray Gallery.  Read her biography and look at the works Amagansett Diptych (#2)  and other works, #s 1-6, listed at the left at the site.  Also at this site, scroll down and look at the paintings in the exhibition, New Works #s 1-7. Which work at this site (that uses the divided picture plane or grid) is your favorite and explain why.

Jennifer Bartlett – Richard Gray Gallery

At the site below, explain what this quote means and how the divided picture plane and the grid are important to this process;
“Remaining true to her vision of painting as a never­ending associative construction that always leaves open connections to other ideas, Bartlett continues to experiment, always willing to subvert and unsettle the seeming happiness and simplicity of her imagery and words.”

Jennifer Bartlett – critical summary

Read about her series of 200 drawings (In the Garden) and then google in images: In the Garden Jennifer Bartlett. Why do you  think it is considered a “tour de force”?

In the Garden by Jennifer Bartlett

The following two articles give insights about the artist, her work habits,  her aesthetics, and her context in late 20th century and contemporary art history.

After reading these 2 articles, discuss 2 important art historical concepts and 2 important concepts for the practicing artist (aesthetic tendencies or studio art practices.)

Jennifer Bartlett Retrospective

Jennifer Bartlett – a visit




8 responses »

  1. My favorite of Jennifer Bartlett’s is “Elements and Seasons” because there’s so much going on, but because most of the activity is focused on a slanted line through the center, it doesn’t look too busy. I think that quote means she never closes off a piece of artwork, or decides to make it a certain mood. She just lets the piece go where it wants to go. Using a gird makes it easier to add on to it without removing what’s already there. Her garden series is a tour de force because if you make 200 works of a subject you get variety of media, experimentation and will inevitably be skilled at whatever you’re painting. Four important concepts are the use of the grid as a method of organization, making the piece large slit surround the viewer (although I don’t think I can do that here), doing the same thing over and over but using a different media each time and just watching it evolve, and allowing the message of the art to change as the piece progresses, not forcing it so to speak.

    • I love that she was able to maintain her subject for 200 variations on the theme. And, as she explores the theme, with conscious intention in her work and openness to possibilities, there is an evolution of her ideas.

  2. I like “Houses on a Hill” because at first glance all the lines look like they don’t have any real subject, and that they’re just lines for the heck of it, but once you start to pay attention you can see the houses in the colors. It says that Jennifer Bartlett went through child abuse, and uses art to work through that. The quote makes it clear that although you wouldn’t guess it because of the simplicity of her projects, the chaos and order of the lines and dots and segments represent her working through that. It’s a “tour de force” because of the different styles and the sheer amount of panels and segments that go into it. It is impressively cohesive for the amount of variance that it contains, and it required a massive amount of thought and effort to make it. Just like Bartlett did, I think it’s important to recognize the universality of geometric shapes in art. I also think it’s interesting how she encompassed other fields such as writing and math into her art when she got hospitalized.

    • You are right – you can’t look at her work without seeing a powerful, creative presence. 200 works on the theme with such variety is impressive, as you note. I see her manner of making layered strokes as a kind of mediatative process that help her to handle psychological anxiety.

  3. My favorite of Jennifer Bartlett’s is Elements and Seasons. I really like how it’s very complex and unique. the amount of detail in that peace is absolutely incredible. I reall;y find it interesting how she expresses hr outside experiences in her artwork. Such as her use of lines and shapes. When she is using shapes and lines in her art. it seams she is showing her interest in math and science.

  4. 1. My favorite work of Bartlett’s is “Small House.” I enjoy its simplicity, muted color, and texture.

    2. Bartlett’s work, life her life, is complicated and always in flux. She is open to change and incorporates new ideas and concepts as they come.

    3. The New York Times puts it perfectly: “[by] working with a limited motif, producing one or two drawings a day, [Bartlett] freed her energies for a relentless and fascinating exploration of media, forms and compositional effects.” She experimented with numerous styles, and the results are outstanding.

    4. Art historical concepts:

    a. In the late 1960s, while many conceptual artists used graph paper to chart their ideas, Bartlett used steel plates silkscreened with a grid
    b. Soho is the 1960s–artist population moved in

    Artistic practices:

    a. Paints on 12-inch-square steel plates coated with baked white enamel and silkscreened with a pale grid
    b. Reworking the same motif over and over with different media

  5. My favorite is the Amagansett Diptych #2 because I like how she paints all the different colors in the clouds, especially the salmon pink. I think the quote is trying to say that the divided picture plane fractures the meaning of the painting, so the viewer has to search harder for a common thread. Also, that the divisions leave room for the viewer to insert her own images that she associates with the pictures. I think it’s called a tour de force partly because the collection is so huge and partly because each individual frame is so vibrant and powerful. Pointillism and expressionism seem to have influenced her work, which makes sense given the time period when she became an artist. Two important concepts for an artist are to work all the time, and to surround yourself with other artists.

  6. My favorite work of the artist Jennifer Bartlett is “Conceptual cartography: Africa.” It amazes me how this painting can remind me of the maps that I saw in my social studies books as a child yet has a kind of beauty in the intensity of its colors and lines that elevate it to the level of high art. The work is a commentary on the arbitrary nature by which lines were drawn on maps by the Western powers which had such an effect on the lives of so many of the inhabitants of the former African colonies.
    The quote: “remaining true to her vision of painting as a never-ending associative construction that always leaves open connections to other ideas, Bartlett continues to experiment, always willing to subvert and unsettle the seeming happiness and simplicity of her imagery and words” underlines the deceptively childlike qualities of some of Bartlett’s uses of shape and color which are delightful to the eye but which should not obscure the deeper meanings inherent in much of her work.
    Bartlett’s 200 drawings of the exact same patch of garden is described as a “tour de force” because of her impressive ability to render what could be a monotonous subject matter fascinating to the viewer. She shows different impressions of the same image and invests each image with new meanings much like Monet did with his many studies of water lilies.
    According to Sheets, Bartlett’s works are noteworthy for art historians in the way that they use “diptychs that juxtapose two slightly different perspectives of the same scene and [are] always painted with layers of grids that seem to embed the imagery in a web” (Sheets). Bartlett’s works are thus noteworthy for both their layout and for their complexity. From the perspective of a visual artist, her work is interesting because of its medium. Bartlett’s works have used, over the course of her output “12-inch-square steel plates coated with baked white enamel and silkscreened with a pale grid on which she could paint with Testor enamels” that enable her to create her unique divided ‘windowpane’ constructions and also enable the surfaces of her work to be wiped clean in a functional fashion (Sheets). Her use of plates in some of her works also creates a “trajectory” or a “story” as each plate takes on added complexity and depth in the series, investing the work as a whole with new meaning (Sirlin).

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