PAFA Presents 40-year Survey Exhibition of Jennifer Bartlett's Work

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On view June 27–October 13, 2013, "Jennifer Bartlett: History of the Universe – Works 1970-2011" offers an unprecedented 40-year survey of one of the most critically acclaimed American artists of the 20th century.

"Jennifer [Bartlett] is a humanist in the tradition of the artists of the Renaissance; an artist who seeks to understand life at its deepest level, and to provide answers needed to create an ethical ground for one’s life.

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) presents Jennifer Bartlett: History of the Universe—Works 1970-2011, on view June 27 – October 13, 2013, a major traveling survey exhibition organized by the Parrish Art Museum.

Jennifer Bartlett: History of the Universe offers an unprecedented 40-year survey of one of the most critically acclaimed American artists of the 20th century, presenting some 30 works that serve as prime examples of works from all of Bartlett’s major series.

"Jennifer Bartlett's work made a significant impact on the contemporary art scene in the late 1970s, as she entwined personal narrative into minimal modernist forms. Her work has engaged difficult and extremely personal content, while also exploring and expanding the terrain of modernism. Now—with enough distance from the rhetoric surrounding postmodernism—her body of work is ripe for critical reappraisal. What comes through immediately when seeing Bartlett’s work is the intensity of her process and the exuberance of her production. We are thrilled that this wide-ranging survey of Bartlett's work debuts at PAFA," says Harry Philbrick, The Edna S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum.

The exhibition is curated by Klaus Ottmann, Director of the Center for the Study of Modern Art and Curator at Large at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and former Robert Lehman Curator at the Parrish Art Museum. According to Ottmann, "Jennifer is a humanist in the tradition of the artists of the Renaissance; an artist who seeks to understand life at its deepest level, and to provide answers needed to create an ethical ground for one’s life. Bartlett’s work continues to ask the same questions first raised more than 200 years ago by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant: What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope for?"

Jennifer Bartlett: History of the Universe includes major paintings executed between 1970 and 2011, with a small selection of related sculptures, such as "Double House," 1987, which consists of painted wood on the backdrop of oil canvases; "Boats," 1987, which consists of painted wooden boats and oil canvases; the highly personal "Air: 24 Hours" series, painted between 1991 and 1992; her Word Paintings, begun in 2004, that feature short stories and dialogues "written" onto her signature enameled steel plates; and the ongoing Garden Paintings, featuring detailed and impressionist views houses, trees, and plants of Bartlett’s homes in Amagansett and Brooklyn, New York.

Jennifer Bartlett (b. 1941) emerged in the 1970s as one of the leading American artists of her time, and one of the first female painters of her generation to be both commercially successful and critically influential. When her monumental painting, Rhapsody, was first shown in 1976, it was regarded as a "tour de force postmodern pastiche" of the history of modern art. Over the course of her 50-year career, Bartlett has become known for her process-oriented, abstract works that offer viewers challenging and inventive narratives.

Bartlett's work resides in public collections around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tokyo; Tate Modern, London; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive, illustrated catalogue published by the Parrish Art Museum, featuring an in-depth essay by the curator, Klaus Ottmann; a conversation between the artist and Terrie Sultan, the Parrish's director; as well as an excerpt from Bartlett's 1985 autobiographical novel, The History of the Universe.

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Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is America's first school of fine arts and museum. A recipient of the 2005 National Medal of Arts presented by the President of the United States, PAFA is a recognized leader in fine arts education. Nearly every major American artist has taught, studied, or exhibited at the Academy. The institution's world-class collection of American art continues to grow and provides what only a few other art institutions in the world offer: the rare combination of an outstanding museum and an extraordinary faculty known for its commitment to students and for the stature and quality of its artistic work.

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