Jennifer Bartlett, artist who made steel plates for her painting, dies at 81

Jennifer Bartlett, a painter who grew in the ’70s and ’80s to become a rare woman at the top of the American art world, uses a range of styles, colors, and materials — including hundreds of shiny steel plates — to explore ideas about change, repetition, and the boundaries of modern art, July 25 at her home in Amagansett, New York. , on Long Island. She was 81 years old.

Her death was announced by Paula Cooper Gallery And the Marianne Bosque Gallery in New York City that you represent. A spokeswoman for the Paula Cooper Gallery, Sarah Goult, said Ms Bartlett had been ill but did not give a specific cause.

Finding inspiration in a seemingly unremarkable house, a simple sailboat or a bleak view from her backyard, Mrs. Bartlett saw endless variety in common scenes. She often painted the same thing dozens or even hundreds of times in sad, cheerful, allegorical, or abstract works. The size of her pieces varied along with the tone: while many of her paintings were made on large panels, other works were massive mosaics of steel tiles, filling an entire gallery as they extended across walls and around corners.

Klaus Ottmann, secretary of the Washington-based Phillips Group, said in a 2013 interview with New York times.

Late in her career, Mrs. Bartlett painted scenes from her garden, views from the hospital where she was recovering in Manhattan and bitmap of the September 11 terrorist attacks. But she remained famous for an earlier, more imaginative work: “Rhapsody,” a collection of 987 painted steel plates that filled Paula Cooper’s gallery when it was first shown in 1976. Times art critic John Russell opened his review of the installation by called “The most ambitious solo work of new art that has come my way since I began living in New York.”

Instead of using traditional fabric, Mrs. Bartlett made one-square-foot steel plates that she baked in white enamel. Then she added a graphic that became one of her trademarks, a pale gray silk-mesh print that she used to organize her photos. Finally, she added or subtracted abstract signs or geometric shapes (triangles, squares, circles, lines) or painted more detailed pictures (house, tree, mountain, ocean), using all the enamel paint colors sold at the time by Testors, a company Art supply.

Overall, Rhapsody was playful and philosophical, serving as a catalog of the kinds of motifs, patterns, colors, and shapes available to contemporary painters. “Mastering it from one end to the other is a unique adventure, and by the time we have thought of 54 different blues and made it to the last ‘ocean’ section, we will have broadened our notions of time, memory, change and painting itself,” Russell wrote.

Ms Bartlett said she composed the piece as it went, and intended it to unfold like a conversation in which “people turn away from one thing and maybe go back to the topic, and then do the same with the next thing.” installation was later acquired By the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which displayed “Rhapsody” in the hotel lobby.

One of four children, Mrs. Bartlett was born Jennifer Ann Losch in Long Beach, California, on March 14, 1941. Her father owned a construction company, and her mother was a former fashion painter. Mrs. Bartlett sought to build a different life for herself, constantly painting as a young girl and dreaming – even at the age of five – of moving to New York to become an illustrator. After watching Disney’s animated movie “Cinderella,” she painted the fairy princess about 500 times, she said, “all the same but with different hair colors and dresses.”

Ms. Bartlett studied painting at Mills College in Oakland, California, graduating in 1963. She continued her art education at Yale University, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1964 and an MA the following year. Her mentor Jacques Turcove introduced it, an abstraction, to young experimental artists including Claes Oldenburg and Robert Rauschenberg, whose work opened Mrs. Bartlett to new directions in modern art.

as she said later“You entered my life.”

While in graduate school, she married Ed Bartlett, a medical student. For a time, she commuted between their home in New Haven, Connecticut; her art studio in Manhattan; and the University of Connecticut, where she studied and slept in her office. This arrangement proved unacceptable, and a few years later, she obtained a divorce and settled in Soho, where she was part of an art community that included Richard Serra, Chuck Close and Jonathan Borowski, who used to live across the street.

“Art at the time had to be new. One had to take the next step,” she told Bomb magazine in 2005. To distinguish herself from her peers, she researched, baked, frozen, tossed, painted, and smashed objects found from the neighborhood (“rubber plugs, plastic tiles, rope napkins, and red plastic teapots”). Inspired by subway signage, I then resorted to steel plates.

By the mid-1980s, she was one of the most prominent artists in the country, with a retrospective of her work opening at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and traveling around the country. Filmed for Vogue and Vanity Fair, which were shot in the New Yorker, she began splitting her time between New York and Paris, where she lived with her second husband, German actor Mathieu Carrière, before their marriage ended in divorce.

She also branched out into poetry and prose, and published her autobiographical novel, A History of the Universe (1985). In one of the Impressionist passages, she wrote: “The skin on the soles of my feet is rough.” “I tend toward alcohol, anxiety, nervous stomachs, moods, temporary optimism, and inflammatory infections. I’ve been analyzed in vain, though we both tried; the same is true of marriage.”

At the same time, she continued to undertake ambitious large-scale art projects, including site-specific commissions for the lobby of a federal courthouse in Atlanta and the roof of a Buddhist temple in Japan. Her work has since been acquired by institutions including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in the capital, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and Tate Modern in London.

Among the survivors are a daughter from her second marriage, Alice Carrier, and two sisters.

When Mrs. Bartlett rented a villa on the French Riviera in the late 1970s, she began painting and sketching her outdoor landscape, eventually creating nearly 200 portraits for a series called In the Garden. Her subsequent projects included “Sea Wall” (1985), installation of boat paintings and sculptures that spanned more than 35 feet; “Air: 24 Hours” (1991-1992), which included a painting for each hour of the day; and “Recitative” (2011), an installation of 372 painted steel plates that brought to mind the historical work that propelled her to fame.

“Instead of improving things, I do more,” she said People said magazine, explaining her sequential approach to art. “I can’t do anything.”