March 5 through April 24, 2004, Locks Gallery will present a thematic exhibition of paintings and installations by Jennifer Bartlett—including a selection of monumental works not seen publicly for over a decade. Focusing on the artist's use of water as subject, this exhibition has been organized to coincide with the Philadelphia Museum of Art exhibition Manet and the Sea and demonstrates the breadth of Bartlett's exploration of water imagery. A full-color illustrated catalog of the exhibition will be available.
The exhibition at Locks Gallery features three monumental works, At Sea (1979), Atlantic Ocean (1984), and Sea Wall (1985) as well as a selection of smaller related works, all devoted to the exploration of water and its visual representation through the act of painting.
Graduating from Yale with an M.F.A. in 1965, Bartlett's first major exhibition, Rhapsody (1976) astounded critics with its encyclopedic demonstration of painting as a subject. Ambitious and unyielding, this landmark work featured a dazzling array of images and techniques, prominent among them, an investigation of water as subject. This work established two major themes in Bartlett's artistic practice that would remain constant—an unabashed approach to the act of painting and the prolonged investigation of a single subject or image.
If Rhapsody was a milestone, with appropriations of Cezanne and Seurat, At Sea and Atlantic Ocean—each painted on the same unorthodox grid of steel plates as Rhapsody—reveal an artist absorbed in Courbet's wave paintings and Monet's sequential canvases. Sea Wall, typical of the installations combining sculptural objects and painted canvases that Bartlett began producing during the 1980s, is anything but typical in its scale. Stretching over 35 feet in length, Sea Wall is by far the largest of the works on view, and includes three separate large canvases, and an installation of over a dozen sculptural objects. These major works remain an essential part of the New Image movement of the 1980s that heralded a return to subject and imagery in contemporary painting—a movement in which Jennifer Bartlett was a central figure.