"Bartlett is an artist in the Renaissance tradition, equally engaged in philosophy, naturalism, and aesthetics, constantly questioning herself and the world with her favorite mantra, 'what if'?' " - Terrie Sultan
"She was outspoken and seemed very sure of herself, and she made people angry, especially men." - Elizabeth Murray, a painter herself, as well as Bartlett's friend
What Bartlett did sounded like conceptual art but with its bright colors and clusters of objects it didn't look like it.
Air: 24 Hours takes place around Bartlett's home and studio in Manhattan. To make a cycle of passing time combined her fascination with the organizing possibilities of the grid and a feeling for the rhythms in nature. Arbitrary parameters stimulated her imagination, as they did for other artists in the 1970s like Sol Liewtt and Frank Stella. Things withheld hover over the paintings, giving them an air of mystery. We are never certain whether we have recognized the artist's intentions fully. Bartlett revealed that ,"The Air paintings are derived very loosely from snap shots."
The clock is a time organizer while the natural elements add sensual detail. Notice in the lower left corner of the canvas the small clock, its hands positioned at precisely five. The series is enigmatic, but 5 PM reads as a pond with goldfish circling four lily pads. They remind me of Japanese koi fish. The message of the Air series is that existence is always in flux.
Jennifer Bartlett (1941-2022) attributed her affinity to water to her childhood in Long Beach, California. She received an MFA at Yale University "I'd walked into my life," she told Elizabeth Murray.
Image: Jennifer Bartlett - Air: 24 Hours -- Five o'clock, 1991-1992,oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.