Jennifer Bartlett and Me

Jennifer Barlett at Paula Cooper Gallery, March 26 - April 23, 2016

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Jennifer Bartlett Amagansett Diptych #3 oil on canvas 84”x168” 2007-2008


Now on top of everything else, Jennifer Bartlett is painting my paintings for me. As I learned courtesy of Raggedy Ann’s Foot (*) a couple weeks ago—do you see? And it pained me.

Cathy Nan Quinlan Summer, Late oil on canvas 24”x48” 2014

Fearing to be supernumerary, I visited the show and I wasn’t, and the show was pretty good, too. Painting is, after all, a crowdsourced endeavor (I reasoned) and it’s all to the good if these efforts converge from time to time. We share an interest in crosshatching and a deep interest in something else that I’ll get to later, but Bartlett is also following a different path with different intentions.

Crosshatching is a language; it does not pretend to be reality and it emphasizes a partnership with the viewer. Bartlett uses it in an elegant way by painting with a five “fingered” pipe overgrainer and dancing it across the surface of her canvases. (Of course I didn’t think of that and I paint my straight lines laboriously, one at a time.) She uses a very fluid semi-opaque oil paint with a silken quality—how’d she get that? The direction and sequence of her strokes is apparent and can be pleasurably followed to see how she made the paintings. The palette is limited and local and there is an overlay of black strokes that pull the painting together and emphasize the forms. They are unabashedly direct.

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Jennifer Bartlett Amagansett Diptych #9 oil on canvas 2007-2008

Bartlett’s paintings are diptychs and are painted from two photographs One of their main intentions is to think about photography and how different the world appears with a short time-lapse, as in Amagansett Diptych #3, and in others of the series, with a slight change of camera position. My skies are constructed memories but I too explore the differences between the photographed and the perceived world.

Bartlett’s time/space lapse has a distancing, cool effect at a distance. Up close, they are warmer and more joyful:

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Jennifer Bartlett Amagansett #9 (detail)

A major difference between us is one of scale. In an interview in the Brooklyn Rail, Bartlett talks about how disappointed she was to find that Gorky’s paintings are small.  This is a typical experience for art students who first encounter paintings projected on the screen in the darkened auditoriums of art history classes. I had the exact same encounter myself with a different outcome. When I saw how relatively small Dejeuner sur l’Herbe was, I was disappointed at first, but then thrilled by the idea that the space that a painting takes up is in the mind. Bartlett became monumental, I pursue intimacy.

We meet in a deeper way in our choices of subject matter. In an early drawing of mine before I had ever heard of Jennifer Bartlett (and oddly I had never seen her crosshatching paintings either), I drew this:

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Cathy Nan Quinlan drawing circa 1979

Yup, the house and the boat! I think we must share a desire to connect to what human beings care about and with which they have multiple associations—things that are not controlled by the painter and are shared with the viewer. And now the sky and I draw roses, too. – CNQ

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Jennifer Bartlett Amagansett Diptych #2 oil on canvas 96” x 192” 2007-2008



*Raggedy Ann’s Foot is Elizabeth Condon’s excellent blog. She does a lot of the legwork for a lazy ass like me to find painting shows that I want to see (and those I don’t.)

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