ORLANDO, FLA.- The Mennello Museum of American Art is presenting the solo exhibition Bo Bartlett: American Artist. The exhibition, which runs through May 7, presents large-scale oil paintings that are figurative, psychologically imbued, beautifully rendered, and wonderfully sublime by one of the most significant American Realist painters of his generation.
Bo Bartlett is widely renowned for his multi-layered complex image making rooted in narrative, story telling, art history, literature, poetry, and every day life. Bartlett works in a long-established tradition in American painting that stretches from Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer to Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth. Like these artists, Bartlett looks at America's land and people to depict the beauty he finds in everyday life. His paintings celebrate the underlying epic nature of the commonplace and the personal significance of the extraordinary. Of Bartlett’s work, Andrew Wyeth wrote, “Bo Bartlett is very American. He is fresh, he’s gifted, and he’s what we need in this country. Bo is one of the very few I feel this strongly about.”
Additionally with references to other American giants George Caleb Bingham, Robert Henri, John Singer Sargent, Thomas Cole, and Norman Rockwell, Bartlett likewise creates an image of time, place and individuality. And to add to this lineage, Bartlett's work stunningly communicates a command of space, grace in gesture, and power in grandeur akin to European painters of history Goya, Delacroix, and Gericault. Bartlett hones figurative expression beyond history painting and beyond imitation and exactitude to place it in a highly conceptual endurance field; to play out, witness, and remember. His protagonists are of this world, observed in time—lone, isolated, afraid, confident, determined, longing—and rendered larger than life, in a manifestly American geography, yet are distilled in a quiet anticipation.
Bartlett was educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where realist principles must be grasped before modernist ventures are encouraged. He pushes the boundaries of the realist tradition with his multilayered imagery―accessible and complex at once. Life, death, transformation, memory, and confrontation coexist easily in his world. Family and friends are the cast of characters who appear in his otherworldly narrative works. Tom Butler, museum director and Columbus, Georgia native states: “Although the scenes are set around Bartlett’s 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.” His work is in the collections of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Seattle Art Museum, Denver Art Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the Columbus Museum of Art, among others. Bartlett currently lives and paints on an island off the coast of Maine in the summer and in his hometown of Columbus, Georgia in the winter.
Shannon Fitzgerald, Executive Director, states, “I am delighted to share Bo Bartlett's compelling work with our community, his work is provocative and timely in ways that brilliantly reveal in direct and non-linear narratives; what is not immediate- fascinates and lingers in the imagination. We are presenting work that spans two decades and considers notions of family, the American South, the mighty ocean, time, life, and death. Through landscape and portraiture, innovation and scale, Bartlett's distinct realism is grand, epic, and meaningful as we contemplate our own narratives and place within our vast world. Bartlett’s characters convey a range of emotions, fortitude, resolve, and determination that prompt empathy whether physical, psychological, or instinctively.” She continues “There is something in his paintings for everyone, they awe as objects, in subject matter and with a humanity that resonates.”