when in doubt, dot


“When in doubt, dot,” Jennifer Bartlett has said, and so, as though to keep herself from doubting — her creativity? herself? — she obsessively dots, creating vivid grids of color dots. Sometimes grids within grids, as in Random Sequence, Random Changing Space and Color Titles with Samples (the subtitles of a stunning series of Untitled works from 1969). A useful way of understanding Bartlett is via of Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura, with its Democritean vision of nature as a system of atoms in motion. It was an enlightened scientific view intended to liberate people from animistic superstition, which sees every natural thing — a mountain, a tree, a stream — as inhabited by some deity who must be appeased and of whom one must be wary. But there’s one catch to the system: Venus starts it. She sets the invisible atoms in motion: They “swerve” — deviate ever so slightly from their neat paths — to converge, forming molecules of visible matter, because of the goddess’ power. Eros gets the cosmos going and keeps it moving, generates its complex togetherness. Eros keeps it from running down — becoming an entropic grid.

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