Art Review, Jennifer Bartlett, Houses

14 Jan

Jennifer Bartlett lives in the world of organized abstraction.  Heavily organized abstraction, as in many of her paintings and prints look like they were made on graph paper.   While other artists use abstraction to make images “freer” and wander outside the boundaries of form, Bartlett’s images cling ever more sternly to form even as the images dissolve into rows of dots and rectangles.

Take Houses for example.  If you took pointillism and blew it up so that every dot was a big blobby circle, and had all of those circles marching obediently in their assigned rows, this is what you’d end up with.  She shows an image of three houses and a road, but the houses lack just about everything that makes a house–no windows or doors, no chimneys, only walls and roofs.  Also amid these rows of circles, there seems to be a thousand lines between them, as if each house held its individual and non-overlapping universe.  The road is just another imaginary line between them.

The color is a notable here, had this print been in black and white, we’d be looking at a very bleak scene indeed, but the color runs riot among the dots, showing a sunset sky teeming with color and the lawns having just about every color in the rainbow.  It’s an interesting image, each color existing in its own field, organized, but still somehow part of the whole picture, creating an image that is instantly recognizable.  There’s a real harmony in the color.

So I can’t come to the conclusion that this is about isolation, but about the sort of loose structure that comes in our homes and our neighborhoods.  Sure, our houses can be fortresses meant to keep everything out, but we cannot help but form connections and be part of the larger tapestry, whether we want to or not.  And the houses themselves look like children’s blocks, crude but only because they look at one view of houses rather than because they really lack any homeyness to them.     It reminds me of English suburbs, well ordered, not very exciting, but also having its own sort of beauty because of the order and containedness that it holds.

I really like Bartlett’s work, there’s an approachability that makes her work very likable, while at the same time enough there to gaze at and muse upon at great length.   I’d encourage anyone to check her out.

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