Orlando, FL — March 28, 2017
Made possible by a generous gift from the William E. Heyler Trust and the Friends of The Mennello Museum.
The Mennello Museum of American Art is pleased to announce the acquisition of Bo Bartlett’s The American (2016), an important painting by American artist Bo Bartlett from our current solo exhibition with the artist, BO BARTLETT: AMERICAN ARTIST. The painting, The American, 2016 is a stunning example of the artist’s continuing ability to create grandiose images with proactive ideas relevant to our larger society, yet still rooted in history and literature. The American is one of Bartlett’s many inspiring new works. Based on Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, The American stands to invigorate art history in its ambiguous and compelling power as we consider our changing world, societal navigation, debates and divides. This acquisition is made possible by the generosity of The Friends of The Mennello Museum of American Art and a gift from The William E. Heyler Trust. Bo Bartlett keeps realism relevant and narrative enthralling in contemporary art discourse, and now at The Mennello Museum too!
The exhibition, BO BARTLETT: AMERICAN ARTIST, opened January 27 and runs through May 7. It features The American alongside other new works, as well as works from two decades ago. This exhibition presents large-scale oil paintings are figurative, psychologically imbued, beautifully rendered, and wonderfully sublime by one of the most significant American Realist and American Figurative painters of his generation.
Shannon Fitzgerald, Executive Director of The Mennello Museum of American Art states: “Acquiring this painting is enormously important to the museum, especially where we are in our life cycle in defining what an American Art museum can be, and our current thinking about advancing not only our exhibitions but our collection wisely. Collecting from our original exhibitions is a good model for us, and to move forward with the work of Bo Bartlett is significant. His work is relevant and resonates with our community; it is an honor to add Bo Bartlett to our collection and be able to share art history in the making with our audiences.”
Bo Bartlett is widely renowned for his multi-layered, complex image making rooted in narrative, storytelling, art history, literature, poetry, and everyday 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, 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.
Of Bartlett’s recent solo exhibition (June 2016) at Ameringer | McEnery | Yohe, of which The American debuted, John Seed wrote in the Huffington Post, “Bo Bartlett: The Intermediary”:
A politically progressive painter born and raised in a conservative southern state (Georgia), Bartlett has always believed in the power of art to ameliorate differences and unify opposing ideas. To see it otherwise is to feign sophistication as a cover for cynicism: I believe in the power of Art to transform lives. My hope is to find connective tissue between opposing ideas to try to help find common ground, to show that we are all in this together. If we can move beyond the cynicism, the dualistic thinking, all the rhetoric and posturing, if we can listen to others, reach out and find the things we have in common with others we’ll start to resolve some of these conflicts that appear irreconcilable. I’ve seen Republicans and Democrats, the wealthy and the homeless, people of all races and genders, standing shoulder-to-shoulder appreciating the wonder of a work of Art.
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.”
BO BARTLETT: AMERICAN ARTIST is organized by The Mennello Museum of American Art and curated by Shannon Fitzgerald, Executive Director, The Mennello Museum of American Art and Public Art, City of Orlando. It is organized concurrently with Orlando Museum of Art’s presentation of the exhibition The Wyeth’s and American Artists in Maine: Selections from the Farnsworth Art Museum. This occasion provides the opportunity to follow a distinctive American art history, an artistic legacy and trajectory that continues, and one that is so compelling in Bartlett’s astonishing oeuvre. This connective examination yields the rare opportunity to position a contemporary artist’s work in the context of his predecessors and peers working in the long-standing tradition of American realism. Bo Bartlett keeps realism relevant and narrative enthralling in contemporary art discourse.
PLEASE NOTE THE BELOW REQUIRED CREDITS FOR IMAGE:
Bo Bartlett, The American, 2016, 82 x 100 inches, oil on linen. Collection of The Mennello Museum of American Art; acquisition purchase by The Friends of The Mennello Museum of American Art and The William E. Heyler Trust. 2017.
About the Musuem
The Mennello Museum of American Art, established in November 1998, is owned and operated by the City of Orlando. This intimate cultural gem located in Loch Haven Cultural Park, is just minutes from downtown Orlando, and is housed in what was once the private home of Howard Phillips, son of local philanthropist Dr. P. Phillips. Among the Mennello Museum’s many treasures is the permanent collection of paintings by self-taught artist Earl Cunningham (1893-1977), which was generously donated from the collection of Michael A. Mennello and Marilyn Logsdon Mennello.
On view now through May 7, BO BARTLETT: AMERICAN ARTIST. This exhibition 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.
The Mennello Museum is located at 900 E. Princeton Street, Orlando, FL 32803.
The Mennello Museum of American Art is generously supported by the City of Orlando and Friends of The Mennello Museum of American Art. Additional funding is provided by Orange County Government through the Arts & Cultural Affairs Program and United Arts of Central Florida.
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