The Julie Saul Gallery is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of photographs, sculptures and drawings by the self-taught Bostonian artist Morton Bartlett (1903-1992). For those familiar with the work of Bartlett this exhibition enriches our knowledge with the addition of a number of modern color photographs made from original Kodachrome slides c.1955, as well as new archival material including self portraits by Bartlett. For those unfamiliar with Bartlett's world it will be a revelation.
Bartlett was born in 1903, orphaned at eight, attended Harvard for two years and lived alone in Cambridge working at a variety of design and graphics jobs. The title for this show comes from an article published on Morton Bartlett in Yankee Magazine in April 1962- the only information every published on him and really the only exposure which Bartlett's passion ever received during his lifetime. The author describes how Bartlett began working with clay in 1936, and began to sculpt "dolls", anatomically perfect sculptures of children at about ½ life size. For the next 25 years, slowly and with obsessive attention to detail and verisimilitude , he sculpted around one figure a year. He then clothed these figures in clothing, sweaters, shoes all made by him, and finally photographed them in tableaux, seen individually and in groups.
Bartlett's legacy -15 sculptures, over 200 vintage black and white photographs, a small number of drawings and a great deal of clothing- was discovered by art dealer Marion Harris who first exhibited the work at the Outsider Art Fair in New York in 1995 and published a monograph entitled Family Found: The Lifetime Obsession of Morton Bartlett in 1994.
The discovery of an additional archive of Bartlett material by a Los Angeles collector has helped to enlarge our understanding of Bartlett's production. A group of 17 Kodachrome slides depict the dolls in a similar fashion as the black and white prints. Seeing the lifelike dolls dressed in vividly colored clothing in tonalities reminiscent of the 1950s brings a new dimension to the work. The exhibition will include work from both archives, and is the first show to bring all of this material together. This show furthers our ability to see the aesthetic of both the sculptures and photographs as fully entrenched in the popular visual culture of that time.