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Jennifer Bartlett

Large Red Man Reading #5

1989

Artist

Jennifer Bartlett (1941-)

Title

Large Red Man Reading #5

Date

1989

Medium

Oil on canvas, nine parts, with woven steel mount

Dimensions

Dimensions variable

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of Susan and Arthur Fleischer

Accession number

2009.194a-j

Object Label

Comprised of nine separate square canvases, Large Red Man Reading #5 presents a series of disparate images, including a raging fire at bottom left and various patterns of tartan that surround a central image of two owls. A square, three-dimensional structure of woven steel lies on the floor, centered directly below the canvases. The title refers to a 1950 poem by Wallace Stevens, in which a poet, reading aloud, vividly describes images that become physical objects. Although Bartlett’s work is not a visual translation of the poem, she nonetheless draws inspiration from Stevens: just as the poet’s words become physical objects so too the painted tartan takes on three-dimensional form in the woven mat below the panels. Thus Bartlett inverts the traditional idea of ut pictura poesis (“as is painting, so is poetry”), asserting the power of painting as equal to that of poetry in its ability to make intangible representations seem tangibly real.