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Bo Bartlett MARCH 2016

A Master of American Realism

Bo Bartlett’s artwork has the clarity of early-morning dreams – the sort that snag your brain partway between wakefulness and slumber, and stir up the most vivid storms of imagination. The characters stare out from the confines of canvas, unafraid and demanding to be noticed – whether a girl standing before a blackboard, her flatly intelligent gaze reminiscent of a raven, or a bright-eyed bride, her veil spilling out behind her like a flurry of snow. Bartlett’s paintings don’t wait, placid and delicate, to be admired: they grab your attention and keep it.

The America of Bartlett’s paintings is mythic: all wide, wild skies and complex, awe-inspiring narratives that weave along the boundary of reality, occasionally dipping into the surreal. A plane, half stuck in the desert, has a charged aura of danger to it that chills the skin.

Scala has published a mid-career retrospective in anticipation of the opening of the new Bo Bartlett Centre in his hometown of Columbus, as part of the Columbus State University College of the Arts. It is a remarkable volume: the first full publication to document Bartlett’s evolution as an artist: his personal creative process and the history of his work. It places his work in the context of a long, magnificent tradition of American realism. Alongside exemplary text by David Houston, the Executive Director of the new centre and an expert in all things Bo Bartlett, and Carter Radcliff – an esteemed American art critic, writer and poet, the author of numerous books on art – rests a catalogue of beautiful illustrations; images of his artwork that pull you into another world, where the sky is bright and endless, and legends run rampant.