Jennifer Bartlett’s Rhapsody

Jul 1–Oct 9, 2023


Jennifer Bartlett. Rhapsody (detail). 1975–76. Enamel on steel, 987 plates, each plate 12 × 12" (30.4 × 30.4 cm); overall approximately 7' 6" × 153' (228.6 × 4663.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Edward R. Broida. © 2023 Jennifer Bartlett. Photograph: John Wronn
  • MoMA, Floor 2, Atrium The Donald and Catherine Marron Family Atrium

When Jennifer Bartlett first showed Rhapsody in 1976, it was a revelation. Visitors responded enthusiastically to Bartlett’s painting which, in the artist’s words, “has everything in it.” The monumental work consists of 987 small panels that invite close looking. From left to right, there are seven thematic sections: Introduction, Mountain, Line, House, Tree, Shape, and Ocean. Bartlett described these parts as “drifting” from one to another; the work was “supposed to be like a conversation... in which people digress from one thing and maybe come back to the subject, then do the same with the next thing.”

Bartlett died in 2022 at the age of 81. Like Rhapsody, her life’s work was “like a conversation,” engaging subjects ranging from topographical maps of the world to her immediate surroundings. Throughout her career, the artist added color and figures to the orderly grid formations prominent in the art of the 1960s—infusing them with fluidity, freedom, and emotion. Repetition—both as a concept and an action—became essential to Bartlett’s practice early on. She was intrigued by the ability of a mathematical series to build upon itself infinitely, and emulated this continuous growth by combining dozens, or hundreds, of plates—baked in enamel, silkscreened, and then painted—in large-scale installations.

Organized by Cara Manes, Associate Curator, and Lydia Mullin, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture.

Support for the exhibition is provided by the Annual Exhibition Fund. Leadership contributions to the Annual Exhibition Fund, in support of the Museum’s collection and collection exhibitions, are generously provided by the Sandra and Tony Tamer Exhibition Fund, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Jerry I. Speyer and Katherine G. Farley, Eva and Glenn Dubin, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, Kenneth C. Griffin, Alice and Tom Tisch, the Marella and Giovanni Agnelli Fund for Exhibitions, Mimi Haas, The David Rockefeller Council, The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Kathy and Richard S. Fuld, Jr., The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis, Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, and The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art. Major contributions to the Annual Exhibition Fund are provided by The Sundheim Family Foundation.

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Installation images

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