This Inner Outer World
April 28 - March 27, 2006
P·P·O·W Gallery is pleased to announce Bo Bartlett's forthcoming exhibition This Inner Outer World. In this new series of paintings, Bartlett has created a body of work in a monochromatic grisaille style sharply differing from his previous work exhibited in his mid-career survey in 2004 at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art. This chromatic style gives the paintings an otherworldly, almost subconscious look. "Limiting the palette", says Bartlett, "pushes me to think of the essential form and narrative of things. With these paintings I want to get the feeling of being aware of what's happening, like in a dream, but not thinking of the beautiful pictorial aspects of the work". While traveling through Europe and Asia, Bartlett carried three colors of gouache with him for over six months. He learned that by using raw sienna, ivory black and white he could achieve a full range of color. Encountering "Guernica" further influenced Bartlett to begin this new grisaille series upon returning to Seattle.
Well known for his paintings that enlarge on a tradition of American realism shaped by Eakins, Homer and Wyeth, Bartlett's newest work takes on a Surrealist aspect by blurring the distinction between the inner world and the outer world. For example in "Au Matin", three haunting figures approach a cliff, however a door opens to the right. Influenced by Dali, Magritte and Bunuel, Bartlett uses surrealist techniques that symbolically represent inner turmoil. "This way you don't know what it is you are looking at", says the artist "they are like memories."
"Habeas Corpus", the centerpiece of the exhibition, is informed not only tonally but compositionally and psychologically by "Guernica". The gallows and noose provide the structure for a drama that is metaphorical and archetypal, complete with executioner, guardian angel and spirit. A passion play unfolds, a scuffle takes place, and a lynching is about to occur. A ceremony is disrupted, or a play is in progress. Is this a sideshow or the main event? Ambiguity is heightened further as the entire drama can be read as a painting on a banner or stretched canvas. Bartlett tries to get to the true nature of reality, showing how it shifts by giving the viewer multiple "truths".
Bartlett's mid-career retrospective "Heartland: Paintings by Bo Bartlett, 1978-2002" opened at the Columbus Museum in Georgia in January of 2003 and traveled to the Greenville County Museum of Art in South Carolina, the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, Washington, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in June of 2004 and then to Bartlett's alma mater, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In the Summer of 2007 Bartlett will have a one-person traveling exhibition that begins at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Maine.