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BARRY BARTLETT

               
Rummaged Beliefs

FEBRUARY 14 - MARCH 15, 2008

What becomes of a souvenir designed to commemorate a particular time and place once popular enthusiasm for its moment has waned?  Does it still have meaning?  One possible answer is powerfully expressed in this assemblage of re-figured historical personae, cultural icons and characters from children's stories, all of whom have been given new life, in porcelain, by ceramic artist Barry Bartlett.  The title "Rummaged Beliefs" refers to the connection these figures and icons have to our persistent ideas about what they stand for, and how surprisingly easy it is for those ideas to be reshuffled. 

 
 
 
 
The sculptures in “Rummaged Beliefs” are made from a variety of cast vessels and figures.  Bartlett found the molds for many of them from a factory called Northeast Ceramics in Troy, NY, which at one time had over thirty thousand molds.  The 1970’s, Bartlett says, were the height of the craze for hobby mold-making, and factories like Northeast Ceramics thrived on the appetite for new and different models.  Today, the remains of this trend form a cenotaph of enthusiasms, all embodied in the figurines of celebrities, past presidents, fantastical animals and memorials to events such as the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. 

Inspired by these forms, Bartlett has created additional molds of figures from military history such as Julius Caesar, Napoleon and President Bush, in some cases juxtaposing them with fairy figures to express the palpable feeling of tragic folly associated with recent global events.  Bartlett’s act of reconfiguring these icons reminds us both of their permanence in our imaginations and their vulnerability as icons.  Commemorative vessels, once a mainstay of events such as world’s fairs, are now usually relegated to the realm of kitsch; reinterpreted as political commentary, however, they seem to regain a kind of expressive power.  Trophies become bittersweet, celebrities become almost anonymous in their new, strange surroundings.  As Bartlett says, commemoration becomes commentary.


 
 
 

Barry Bartlett holds a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute, and an MFA from Alfred University, New York State College of Ceramics.  He is currently a Faculty member at Bennington College, Bennington VT and has taught there since 1987.  His work has been exhibited at Gary Tatintsian Gallery in NYC; Anna Kustera Gallery, NY and in a series of group shows including Maryland Art Place, MD, Baltimore Clayworks, MD, the Islip Art Museum, NY, the Neuberger Museum, NY, and Rotunda Gallery Brooklyn, NY.  He has participated in national and international artist residences and lectured in Portugal, Dominican Republic and England. He is a recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in the Visual Arts.  He has also served on two advisory boards, The Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts and Greenwich House Pottery and Center for the Ceramic Arts in NYC.  His work has been reviewed in the American Ceramic and Ceramic Monthly magazines.



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212-242-4140
info@greenwichhouse.org