Bo Bartlett

Los Angeles, California – Forum Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of nineteen recent works by Bo Bartlett from March 6th to April 18th. There will be an opening reception on March 6th from 7-9 p.m. The artist will be present.

“Life, death, passage, memory, and confrontation coexist easily in his world. Family and friends are the cast of characters that appear in his dreamlike narrative works. Although the scenes are set around his childhood home in Georgia, his island summer home in Maine, his home in Pennsylvania or the surroundings of his studio and residence in Washington state, they represent a deeper, mythical concept of the archetypal, universal home.
–Tom Butler, excerpt from the book Bo Bartlett, Heartland

A leading force in contemporary American representational painting for the past thirty years, Bo Bartlett was born and raised in Columbus, Georgia. From 1976-1981 he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, a decision motivated by his personally appointed mentor Andrew Wyeth whose “truth to experience” Bartlett has always placed at the core of his own artistic identity. Following his time at The Academy, Bartlett concluded his formative development with private studies under Nelson Shanks at the master painter’s residence in Andalusia, Pennsylvania.

Bartlett’s paintings reflect Benjamin West’s epic narration, Thomas Eakins’ psychological realism, and Winslow Homer’s subtle revelations. Combining a historically Baroque sensibility with a powerful contemporary stance, Bartlett alludes to both ancient and current events in an ongoing balance between past and present. Working through his Life Cycle series, War series, and later his Water series, the artist continues to blend realism with idealism, the personal with the common, the general with the individual.

In his large-scale painting Los Soñadores (The Dreamers) the artist depicts a group of five youths walking at twilight beneath a moon-lit sky. In sequence they pass by on a high plateau overlooking evidence of a large, industrial city. Seemingly dejected, some look back towards the viewer; others focus their gaze straight-ahead. The protagonists are undoubtedly Mexican laborers, and the background metropolis quite possibly Los Angeles. Yet the scene is as much a universal statement as it is specific commentary. An ongoing and timeless human struggle is pictured. One that has happened, is happening and will happen.

Such an implied narrative also takes on symbolic meaning in Bartlett’s A New Beginning. A painter (possibly the artist himself) sits in a chair, his back to the spectator, and works on a large blank canvas while a young girl rests on the floor by his side, gazing directly at the onlooker and holding a small, yet finished, painting. As in many of Bartlett’s compositions, the two characters appear unaware of each other while the viewer is left to surmise the nature of their intertextuality and what events might unfold therein.

Still lifes of a smaller scale are no less captivating. In the Painter’s Bucket the bright white bucket rests precariously near the edge of a ledge, framed by a dramatic sky. The Broom, which juts straight up into the picture plane before a flat, yellow landscape, has somehow just caught on fire. The champagne bottle in Anniversary mysteriously rests on a white tablecloth in front of a bright blue sea. These essentially mundane objects are imbued with a sense of great import and represent Bartlett’s celebration of both the commonplace and the extraordinary.

Bo Bartlett divides his time between his studios in Maine, Georgia and Vashon Island, Washington. A winner of many distinguished awards throughout his career, examples of his work can be found in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, the Denver Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara, California, Museum of Art, the Seattle Art Museum, the Columbus Museum of Art in Georgia, and the Academy of Music and United States Mint in Philadelphia.

Location: Los Angeles