In one of two major strains of Jennifer Bartlett’s work on view at Paula Cooper Gallery, jubilant dazzles of dots bubble across irregularly-shaped canvases, such as the mustache-shaped attachment along the bottom of Wedding (2000-2002). If you take a step back and squint at the pointillist and polychrome scene, you can make out a crowd of figures. The exhibition is curated to accompany the irregularity of these paintings, with small works arranged as mutable elements in the composition of wall space.
Bartlett’s other body of work on view is decidedly more cartographic, though locational accuracy seems to take second seat to a free-form exploration of symbol. Tanzania (2003), for example, is shaped like the country, while Serengeti, Tanzania, (2003) is shaped like a football. In abstracting these real places, Bartlett seems to be drawing attention to the arbitrary nature of borders, particularly in disputed territories. In the earth-shaped Reserva de Elefantes e des Bufalos, Mozambique (2003), for instance, the words on the canvas itself are in Portuguese, the official language of Mozambique after a tortured history of colonization, but the title is curiously transliterated in Galician.
Jennifer Bartlett, Republique de Guinée, 2003. Oil on canvas, 36 x 49 x 2 inches. Photo: Steven Probert. © Jennifer Bartlett. Courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen, and The Jennifer Bartlett 2013 Trust.