During the winter of 1979–80, Jennifer Bartlett (born 1941) traded homes with British novelist Piers Paul Read, exchanging her SoHo loft for a mediocre villa in Nice far from the famed seafront which had inspired the paintings of Matisse, Bonnard, Renoir, and Picasso. The series borne of this disappointing tourism, In the Garden, reinvented her practice and captured the myriad of natural forces and emotional states that she experienced during her stay. The fluency with which Bartlett transcribed the emotive potential of an otherwise desolate scene and the deftness of her mark-making prompted a 1983 review in Time Magazine where Robert Hughes proclaimed Bartlett to be a “connoisseur of unease,” because she simultaneously captured the banality of her surroundings while developing a forensic antidote to ennui of her generation.
Locks Gallery is pleased to present a reconstitution of In the Garden that highlights the serialized nature of this body of work. Produced first from life as roughly 200 hundred works on paper; later reinterpreted from photographs as prints and enamel plates; and finally resolving in large triptych and five panel paintings which reflect on her famed work Rhapsody, the works were largely divided into private and corporate collections following their exhibition in the mid-1980s. For twenty years, Locks Gallery has pursued the major research effort of locating and documenting works from In the Garden, a process which has revealed major paintings and plate works that have not been publicly accessible since they were originally exhibited in 1983. By cultivating relationships with collectors who gravitated toward Bartlett’s unique painterly style, Locks has been able to track a history of this series which informed Bartlett’s 40-year career. This exhibition is a showcase of this tremendous body of work, a testament to the Gallery’s long relationship with the artist, and a rare opportunity to encounter this touchstone of masterful drawings, pastels, plates and paintings.