Frieze Los Angeles

Santa Monica Airport, February 16 - 19, 2023 

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For Frieze Los Angeles 2023, Marianne Boesky Gallery is pleased to present a solo booth dedicated to Jennifer Bartlett's acclaimed Fire series. One of four bodies of work the artist devoted to the natural elements-Earth, Air, Water, and Fire-the Fire paintings, made between 1989 and 1990, represent a facet of Bartlett's practice that examines the anxiety of disaster, cataclysm, and, ultimately, transformation. 


Bartlett (1941–2022) was born and raised in Southern California, and home was a fraught concept for her. As her friend Joan Didion wrote, “Children [in California] grow up aware that any extraordinary morning their house could slip its foundation in an earthquake on a suddenly unstable slope....Jennifer Bartlett’s most persistent imagery, her apprehension of the potential for disaster in the everyday, derives from her California childhood.” With the Fire paintings, Bartlett directly engages with this latent potential for disaster that permeated the California landscape of her childhood.


Fire-as subject and as metaphor-marked an important shift in Bartlett's practice, as she moved away from the precise and controlled minimalist impulses that characterized her early work and toward the looser, more painterly investigations of nature and home she embarked upon in the late 1980s. While Bartlett is rightly hailed for her disciplined, systematic approach to artmaking (frequently executed at a dauntingly ambitious scale), the Fire series deals, necessarily, with matters that are inherently unknowable, taking as its motif a symbol of resurrection, renewal, and regeneration. The central work in the gallery's presentation for Frieze Los Angeles is Comedian as the Letter C for Max Gordon. At sixteen feet wide and eight feet tall, this monumental painting exemplifies key motifs of the Fire series: household furniture and objects, playing cards and dominoes, tartan patches, and household plants all float uncannily in sequence-and in defiance of the raging fire that burns beneath them.


While only alluded to in other bodies of Bartlett’s work, themes of violence and transformation are at the heart of the Fire paintings—themes that become more prescient when viewed from a contemporary landscape of worsening wildfires across California. “These uncharacteristically violent works are more concerned with transformation immediately felt rather than the changes gradually registered at a site,” Marge Goldwater writes. “We are meant to focus on the process itself and the nature and consequences of transformation wrought by violent means.” The inescapable violence of the Fire paintings, viewed from our moment in time, take on a more literal environmental connotation than they did.


The booth will be on view February 16-19 at the Santa Monica Airport, Booth H9. Marianne Boesky Gallery will also present Jennifer Bartlett: Works on Paper, 1970-1973, on view January 21 - February 18, at the gallery's New York space.