Mary Ellen Bartley: Looking Between the Covers
Jun. 5 – Sep. 4, 2016
Bartley has always had an affinity for books. They have served as an important way for her to learn and think about art. Inspired by the 2008 retrospective of Morandi, the Italian painter and printmaker known for the tonal subtlety of his still lifes, Bartley was moved to find a still life project that she could work on for an extended period of time.
Looking Between the Covers includes work from three still life series made between 2009 and 2012. The muted colors and delicate use of light in her Paperbacks series reflect Bartley’s minimalist sensibility. She has purposefully chosen not to title the images so that the subject of the book does not distract the viewer. She has used a wide palette of “whites,” from light grey to pale blue, in order to create “something quiet.” The dark and ominous colors of her Blue Book series create a sense of mystery and sadness. As the painter Ross Bleckner commented, these images reflect both presence and absence. They are beautifully enigmatic and foreboding. The works in Standing Open mark a departure from the minimalist tendencies in Bartley’s earlier work. She came to the series by accident when she stood one of the books upright and the pages began to spread apart. What she discovered was a wonderful striping motif that was created by the pages. Unlike her earlier works, these images afford the viewer a glimpse into the contents of the publication, as do the titles, which reference the books that Bartley is photographing.
*The ICA has recently reopened and renamed the former ICA Print Center as the Off Center Gallery, a flexible exhibition space that will feature site-specific installations, solo exhibitions and exploratory work. For the first time since the 2014 culmination of the ICA’s printmaking program, the ICA will present a solo exhibition by Mary Ellen Bartley in the newly renovated space.