Uz Henryja Dargera, najproslavljeniji američki autsajderski umjetnik. 27 godina opsesivno je u gipsu izrađivao 15 realističnih, anatomski preciznih, uglavnom pristojno odjevenih lutaka (za razliku od izobličenih, rastrganih Bellmerovih) - djece u svakodnevnim pozama koje "zaustavljaju vrijeme" u "vječnom djetinjstvu" - i na to potrošio sve vrijeme zaustavljeno u svome novcu i sve svoje slobodno vrijeme u njegovoj vječnoj djetinjatosti.
Fetišizam, infantilizam, manekenstvo - je li bolje imati gipsanu, nego živu djecu?
Family Found (2002)
This 16mm short documentary directed by Emil Harris, filmed in Boston Massachusetts in 2002, covers the life and work of the renowned self-taught artist Morton Bartlett. The film has since been screened in several museums internationally. The film contains an original music score by the highly acclaimed composer John Zorn.
Along with Henry Darger, Morton Bartlett is one of the most celebrated “Outsider Artists”. The Chamber of Pop Culture is very proud to present an exhibition of Bartlett’s photographs of his beautiful intricately-carved, life-like, plaster dolls made between 1926 – 1963 in an oversize print edition.
Born in Chicago in 1909, he was orphaned at the age of 8 and adopted by a wealthy couple from Cohasset, Massachusetts. Bartlett studied at Phillips Exeter Academy and later at Harvard University, after which he passed through a succession of jobs, ranging from crafts magazine editor to gas station attendant. Following his service in the US Army during WWII, Bartlett took up freelance graphic design and photography as well as designing catalogues for a toy distributor.
For 27 years Bartlett dedicated all his free time and resources to the creation of 15 beautifully crafted plaster children. Suspended in relaxed, photogenic poses or mid action, dancing, crying, translucent resin tears fixed on flushed cheeks, frozen in time, forever immersed in the intimacy, unselfconsciousness and wonder of childhood.
With no formal training, Bartlett used books on anatomy and medical growth charts to produce, first in clay and then cast in plaster, 12 girls and 3 boys ranging in age from pre-pubescence to adolescence. Their ageing and development occurring from one child to another, milk teeth missing in the wide open laughing mouth of a boy, in the next strong adult teeth behind the heavy, softly parted lips of girlhood, in another the nipples swell, hips broaden, all grown-up now.
Bartlett dressed these wondrous children in picket-fence, Sears catalogue inspired hand made fashions: Smocking, pleats, embroidery, ruffles, bobby socks and sun hats. Concealed beneath the lovingly made clothing lie perfect anatomies, a closeness, a spectral presence tangible in Bartlett’s photographs within which he posed these children in carefully considered scenarios echoing advertising, fashion magazines and Hollywood portrait photography.
And yet, despite the remarkable detail and heart breaking care these children remain unreal, at odds with the physical forces of this world. Stunted, caught perpetually in a single expression and position, they are brittle to the elements and vulnerable to time, unable to live outside in streets and stations.
But in the photographs time stops and the inanimate children come to life, in a fixed world built for them, their stillness erased by the stillness of time. Photography here is the alchemical process, the enigmatic invocation which animates them and makes them “real” boys and girls. - www.thehorsehospital.com/
|Substitute for Love|
by Jerry Saltz
|Morton Bartlett, May 11-June 24, 2000, at Ricco/Maresca, 529 West 20th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011. "The hollow of my hand was still ivory -- full of Lolita -- full of the feel of her pre-adolescently incurved back, that ivory-smooth, sliding sensation of her skin through the thin frock that I worked up and down while I held her." That, of course is Humbert Humbert talking about his doomed love. It's not known if Morton Bartlett ever read Nabokov's classic, but in his own way he may have lived it. Or at least some part of him did, because it's also not known how conscious Bartlett was of what he was doing. |
Nabokov gave Humbert an excruciating consciousness of his enslavement ("I was a pentapod monster but I loved you. I was despicable and brutal and turpid") and the ability to render the object of his desire in exquisite detail. From 1935 until around 1965, Bartlett created the object of his desire from scratch: a surrogate family of 15 half-sized, anatomically correct, pubescent girl (and a few boy) dolls. Taking as long as a year to make, each child was meticulously sculpted from clay, cast in plaster and painted with lifelike features. These figures were then dressed in clothes of his own making, outfitted in wigs, posed in homemade sets and photographed. This circuitous route to satisfaction tells you how undeniable Bartlett's cravings were to him. The final products are the dimly lit, ardent, awkward, inexplicable pictures on view here.
Bartlett was born in 1903, orphaned at eight, attended Harvard for two years and lived alone in Cambridge as a self-employed printing designer. Upon his death in 1992, the figures, drawings, clothing and around 200 photographs were found in his basement. Except for an autobiographical profile penned for Harvard's 1957 Anniversary Report, that's all we know. The last two sentences of Bartlett's statement, however, suggest both a glimmer of defensive shame and a flicker of Nabokov's consciousness: "My hobby is sculpting in plaster. Its purpose is that of all proper hobbies -- to let out urges that do not find expression in other channels."
Bartlett's "urges" ooze out of his pictures, but that word proper just hangs there. A rare breed of outsider-photographer, he operated so totally out of personal necessity that his work is compelling, however troubling the subject matter. His pictures are a combination of jaunty and hollow, cheerful but utterly artificial. Describing a Bartlett photograph she owns, the artist Laurie Simmons said, "It's really unusual to find something that's so sweet and so scary at the same time." The 19 black-and-white prints at Ricco/Maresca and two actual dolls, one opening her robe to reveal startling gynecological "realness," locate us in this sweet and scary place.
Bartlett presided over his make-believe family like a kindhearted Geppetto and a predator. The figures' poses are impish, but the mood is tense. In one photograph, we see an Asian nymphet wearing nothing but a grass skirt and a straw hat, hand on hip, her breasts barely sprouting points. Elsewhere, she's posed without the skirt, her precisely shaped pudenda visible: Tokyo Rose meets Traci Lords. In another picture, an even younger girl sticks her hand under her dress, grimacing as if she has wet her pants or has been caught touching herself. Another girl child peers beguilingly over her bare shoulder, mouth slightly open, her tongue seductively licking her upper lip.
Bartlett's cravings may be creepy, but his carving is impeccable. A ballerina's leg extends flawlessly, the toe arched just so. The bridge of a nose is fashioned as if it were cartilage still in formation. Lips are bee-stung, eyes introspective or anxious, mouths poised in twisted smiles or petulant frowns. Many of his scenes look contrived, as if they popped out of children's books, movies, or American advertising of the period. We get pert young teenagers dressed in poodle skirts, happy-go-lucky cowgirls in Western getups, students doing homework, peasant girls, young things in sunsuits, little Shirley Temples and Betty Grables. The photo of a sitting miss in shorts and blond pigtails looks uncannily like a Cindy Sherman (who also owns a Bartlett image).
Occasionally, a ray of ambivalence breaks through this mawkishness, and Bartlett's subconscious reveals itself. You can see it in the picture of a youngster who scolds a contrite cocker spaniel. She sits on the floor, legs akimbo, her underpants just visible. Bartlett's shame takes the form of the little, reprimanded puppy. Other times, the little girls cast their eyes downward or act guarded, as if Bartlett knew they knew what was going on.
The fetishism, infantilism, mannequins and set-up photography connect Bartlett to a lot of artists: Henry Darger, Hans Bellmer, Degas, Robert Gober, Charles Ray, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Sally Mann, Jock Sturges, Simmons, and Sherman. As Sherman said, "Bartlett fits right in." On the other hand, he sticks out.
While I was at the show, a woman told me she found his work "off-putting" and "disturbing." In the early '60s, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote, foolishly, of Lolita, "It is not only inhuman; it is anti-human." Bartlett's art is off-putting and disturbing, but it is not inhuman. Its all-too-humanness gives his work its power.
JERRY SALTZ is art critic for the Village Voice, where this article first appeared.
Doll, You Oughta Be in Pictures
The doll sculptures — most made in the 1940s and ’50s — and their clothes and the black-and-white photographs were discovered in 1993 by Marion Harris, a Connecticut antiques dealer who introduced the work at the Outsider Art Fair in Manhattan in 1995.
Since then, Bartlett’s reputation has exploded, and so has the conjecture about what drove him to create his exquisite creatures. He has been seen as a Humbert Humbert with a Henry Higgins side who built his Lolitas from scratch; a comrade of Lewis Carroll, Hans Bellmer, Edgar Degas and Henry Darger. Orphaned at 8, Bartlett has been viewed as a lost child who grew into a gentle Gepetto and created the family he never had, inviting comparisons to benign recluses and outsiders like Joseph Cornell, Martín Ramírez, Adolf Wölfli, Bill Traylor and James Castle.
A third view is that Bartlett, who was adopted by upper-crust Bostonians and educated at Phillips Exeter and Harvard, was a thoroughly informed if self-taught artist whose primary medium was photography. Along with Claude Cahun, Paul Outerbridge and O. Winston Link, he could be considered a groundbreaker in setup photography, one of contemporary art’s richest lodes for the past 40 years.
The view of Bartlett as primarily a photographer is reinforced in the current show, which has as its centerpiece a series of 10 large color photographs never before exhibited. These images suggest that whatever emotional or sculptural urges the dolls satisfied, the main reason Bartlett made the figures was so that he could photograph them.
Bartlett orchestrated psychologically complex art images that resonate with influences ranging from Northern Renaissance sculpture to advertising, fashion magazines and Hollywood portrait photography. The final images depend on Bartlett’s sculptural ability to render body language, youthful proportion and facial expression, but all these elements become more nuanced in his photographs. At the Saul gallery, the larger color images establish this beyond a doubt by combining the nuance of the black-and-white shots with the vividness, detail and color of the previously known dolls.
These large color photographs, however, were unknown until a few years ago and until last year existed only as color slides. A Los Angeles collector, Barry Sloane, is responsible for this discovery about Bartlett’s achievements.
“I usually keep a very low profile,” Mr. Sloane said in a telephone interview, noting his reluctance to see his name in a newspaper. He first saw Bartlett’s work in a European museum; then he bought several photographs from Ms. Harris and continued researching on his own.
The slides were in a large cache of Bartlett material that Mr. Sloane acquired, box by box, from a seller he first found through eBay. Among this mass of material, which is still being cataloged, were 17 color slides of the dolls.
Several artist acquaintances encouraged him to have the slides printed. “I remember Mike Kelley saying that the color was extraordinary,” Mr. Sloane said, “and asking me how anyone was going to know how great Morton Bartlett was in color if the images weren’t bigger.”
He sought advice from the photographer Grant Mudford and ended up working with Chip Leavitt, of Lumiere Editions, a photography printing company whose clients include many Los Angeles artists. It took about two years to settle on the 28-by-20-inch size. The images were printed (in editions of 10) without adjusting their color or their borders.
Mr. Sloane, a real estate broker specializing in historic properties at Sotheby’s International Realty in Beverly Hills, Calif., pointed out that the printing process was expensive. “I’m doing this for Morton,” he said. “Any money I get from sales will be plowed back into covering the costs of the research, archiving and especially conservation.” The color photographs make everything about Bartlett’s work more intense and deliberate. Details become sharp and legible, which ratchets up the sense of perfection and the emotional charge. The scale of the printed fabrics is just right: the yellow calico of a blond girl’s sunsuit, the tiny picturesque country scenes in red, blue and green on a gathered skirt.
In color the dolls’ settings become more prominent. In one image a blond girl in a straw hat, her tongue poised provocatively between her lips, is seen in front of a lithograph of the corner of a classical building — a big-city museum, maybe, or the Parthenon. Although the ink-on-paper landscape that conjures up wallpaper is not unique to the color images, it jumps out here in another image: of a little girl in a white ruffled dress, whose contorted face streams with tears.
The tensions in the figures are also more apparent. Sometimes Bartlett would sculpture serene, beautiful expressions; sometimes more fraught, like the sobbing child. The blond doll in the yellow calico sunsuit, seated on the floor, for example, may be smiling, but the smile is more of a grimace. It is as if she were watching a bug approach and deciding if she should squash it or run away screaming.
There is a kind of artificiality to Bartlett’s images that oscillates between communicating the idealization of children favored by society and the underlying tensions of childhood that often stem from the strain of that idealization.
The exhibition has attracted new information about Bartlett, including an assertion by a Massachusetts woman, Mary Jane Dexter, that her mother was engaged to Bartlett in the late 1940s, when they lived across the street from each other in Cohasset, Mass., and ran a business together. In an interview Ms. Dexter said she had photographs that Bartlett took of her and her brother.
Mr. Sloane said that the material he purchased includes cloud photographs in the manner of Alfred Stieglitz, a sketchbook, a portfolio of photo portraits of children, and many self-portraits Bartlett made throughout his life. (One is included in this show.)
Most prevalent are slides — thousands of slides, including scores depicting buildings in Boston, which might have been commissioned. And most intriguing, there are also photographs of children wearing diaphanous fabrics and cavorting in the woods.
Together, the Saul gallery show and Mr. Sloane’s find suggest that no matter how great Morton Bartlett is, the breadth of his art is still unknown.
"A combination of skill, intelligence, observation and passion - ranks with the best in the Prinzhorn collection....." Vivian Raynor, New York Times.
"A remarkable body of work based on love and loss that rocks our conventional responses" James Kincaid, Aerol Arnold Professor of English, University of Southern California
The work of Morton Bartlett, Boston, 1909 - 1992, a self-taught sculptor and photographer, has become iconic in the art world since it was purchased, untouched in its entirety, by Marion Harris.
A superlative group of figurative sculptures and photographs of children, created by Bartlett from 1936 - 1963, translates into a sublime marriage of art and eccentricity.
Comprising 12 girls and three boys, the latter considered by many to represent the artist at age 7, the figures range in age from infant to teenager and measure approximately 1/3 - 1/2 scale.
Realistic, detailed and anatomically accurate, Bartlett's fantasy family is dressed in clothes he meticulously designed, sewed and knitted himself. The sole purpose of this obsessive endeavor was a "family" album of photographs.
The "children" were captured for eternity in his mind and with his camera. Posing them in easily imagined everyday scenes, Bartlett the photographer allows us to observe them reading a book in bed, practicing at ballet class and having fun at the beach.
The remarkably lifelike photographs have been exhibited internationally and share a resonance with postmodern works by Cindy Sherman and Laurie Simmons; along with the original sculptures, all are now in private or museum collections.
10 of Bartlett's most sought-after images were produced in a limited edition in 2010 and are available for purchase. We are the source for these limited large-scale works and also for vintage Morton Bartlett works when they become available on the secondary market.
We invite you to contact us directly for current updated information on purchase availability and details on upcoming museum exhibitions.
Morton Bartlett & Thomas Ruff
The pencil marks are soft, neat and painstaking – clearly amateur, but not without some accomplishment. In the six modestly scaled drawings, the viewer can see the artist’s absorption in his work, and perhaps guess the delicate pleasures and pin pricks of frustration that he felt in trying to bring his subjects to life. The subjects are always the same: little girls who appear to be around nine or ten years old. From their clothes, hairstyles and demeanour, these children seem to date from the mid-20th century. They all wear simple dresses or skirts and blouses; some have ribbons in their hair. Their poses are self-consciously ‘natural’, like those once used for modelling children’s fashions. One adjusts her straw hat; another rests her weight on one leg like a ballet dancer. Here and there, the expressions of these girls tip from perky toward coquettish, yet remain just within the general register of innocence.
Alongside these weightlessly slight yet oddly tenacious drawings, and thus sharing the syrupy gravitational field of their psychic presence, are three large colour c-type print photographs depicting the slightly blurred image of a woman posing in a pale, non-descript interior. Her auburn hair is pinned up, and she is wearing red underwear, black stockings and suspenders, black high-heeled shoes and a clinging black vest. These are pixellated digital images that have been enlarged, and their consequent blurring heightens both the visual softness and the bland impersonality of their generically soft-pornographic subject matter. At the same time, the colours and composition appear serendipitously deft and painterly, enlivened with passages of elegance and monumentality.
As conceived for this exhibition by artist Christoph Schellberg, the seemingly inappropriate pairing of Bostonian outsider artist Morton Bartlett’s (1909–92) untitled drawings and German photographer Thomas Ruff’s ‘Nudes’ (2009) becomes a somewhat atonal duet on the themes of enigma, intention and authorship. It is a show that catches the viewer unaware, baited with a beguiling tension between American gothic and the digital aesthetic, the sexually explicit and the psychosexually implicit. By abutting soft-porn images – trawled by Ruff from the shallower reaches of cyberspace – with Bartlett’s amateur portraits of young girls, Schellberg creates a discursive void between them that could only be bridged – and even then with difficulty – by turning attention to process and biography respectively.
Bartlett has long been regarded as a significant figure within US outsider art. A Harvard-educated lifelong bachelor who worked primarily (and without much success) in the printing trade, he referred in his autobiographical note for the ‘Class of 1932, 25th Anniversary Report’ to his ‘hobby’ of ‘sculpting in plaster’: ‘Its purpose is that of all proper hobbies,’ he wrote, ‘to let out urges that do not find expression in other channels.’ Bartlett sculpted both boys and girls in half human scale, but anatomically detailed, and dressed them in clothes that he also designed and made himself. He also photographed his figures, posed alone or in groups. The drawings on display in Cologne were made primarily as part of the clothing-design process.
Whether Bartlett’s mannequins were made to stand in for a family he never had, or whether they requited some psychosexual desire, or both, will be forever open to conjecture. Seen alongside Ruff’s chilly excursions into the capacities of the contemporary image and the dreary wastes of online porn, the Boston bachelor’s sunny children appeared like fleeting ghosts. This discreet yet memorable exhibition evoked above all a sense of psychic restlessness. One left the exhibition wanting souls to rest in peace – all of them – everywhere. - Michael Bracewell
Morton Bartlett (Boston, 1909–1992) was an American freelance photographer and graphic designer who, from 1936 to 1963, devoted much of his spare time to creating and photographing a series of intricately carved lifelike plaster dolls. He never formally exhibited his work, though a small circle of friends and acquaintances was aware of its existence. Only upon his death in 1992, when the contents of his estate were sold off, did his artistic creations become more widely known to the general public.
In 1936, at the age of 27, Bartlett began the personal hobby that would hold his interest for the next 27 years: dollmaking. He had no formal training in sculpture, but by making use of books on anatomy and medical growth charts he was able to create, first in clay and then cast in plaster, at least 15 half-sized likenesses of children (there may have been more but these are the only ones known to remain). Twelve of them are girls, ranging roughly in age from prepubescence to adolescence, and three are boys, of approximately eight years of age and bearing some resemblance to the artist himself. The dolls were made with detachable arms, legs and heads, allowing for a variety of different poses.They are accurately scaled, depicting his compulsive attention to detail. Bartlett took photos of the dolls in life-like situations, either nude or wearing hand-made clothes.
Bartlett's hobby received public mention twice in his lifetime. The first came in 1957 in the 25th Anniversary Report of Harvard's 1932 graduating class, in which he wrote: "My hobby is sculpting in plaster. Its purpose is that of all proper hobbies - to let out urges that do not find expression in other channels." The second came in April 1962 when Yankee Magazine ran a two-page spread of photographs featuring nine of Bartlett's dolls dressed in costumes representing various ethnic heritages. The article, written by Michael A. Tatischeff, was titled "The Sweethearts of Mr. Bartlett".
Although untrained in art, he worked in sculpture and photography. Bartlett first began to make his dolls in 1936, the same year that Hans Bellmer's book The Doll was published in Paris. Over the following 25 years, Bartlett carved and dressed numerous sculpted dolls (about 15 have survived), and created a photographic record of them which amounts to about 200 B&W photographic prints and 17 colour slides. He was also a collector of anatomy books. The dolls and photographs were found after his death, and have since been shown in books and gallery exhibitions.
Bartlett made the last of his dolls in 1963. Forced to relocate from his Bay Village studio on 15 Fayette Street in Boston that he had occupied for more than a decade, he wrapped his dolls in newspaper and packed them away in custom-made wooden boxes. He moved to Boston's South End where, as far as is known, he never again worked on or photographed any of the dolls in his collection.