New York

Jennifer Bartlett

Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

Jennifer Bartlett is a writer as well as a painter and the interrelations are worth mentioning. In Cleopatra I–IV, 1971 (Adventures In Poetry, 437 East 12 Street, New York City, 10009) she combines chronology, historical genre, sexual metaphors, aphoristic sentences, and, in section II, an array of diagrammatic signs in systematic rows. It is this area of course that is amplified in her paintings, which are based on square enameled metal plates on which a grid has been printed. In the grid she puts blob-like dots, hand-done in their irregularity, which make sequential runs, repeating patterns, figure-field images. These are seen in various combinations as the plates themselves are assembled in extensive grid patterns. There is a “list of works” that accompanies the show and it is of some significance as a key, giving titles and descriptions. “Nine Points. Establishing nine points through random selection”; “Chicken Tracks. Plate 1: horizontal, vertical, diagonal extension of one unit from nine points”; and “Goal Post. Vertical horizontal vertical.” Thus the visual display is augmented by the commentary, but the verbal account does not amount to much. There is a kind of pedagogic obviousness about the described system which is a far cry from the complex interplay of signifiers in Cleopatra I–IV. Bartlett seems to have taken the early 20th-century point-line-plane kind of design construction and applied it to the mid-century idiom of repetitive forms in bloc grids. The results are visually and conceptually less interesting than her writing. It is typical that the numbers that key the pieces on the wall to the “list of works” are so discreet and minute as to be almost over-lookable. Visuality seems to inhibit her compared to the mixture of genres.

––Lawrence Alloway