©Katherine McMahon; from ArtNews: An Old-School Painter Adapts to a New World Order: Jack Whitten's 50-Year Evolution. By Alex Greenberger. posted 19 Jan 2016

KNOWN FOR HIS CONCEPTUAL APPROACH to abstraction, painter Jack Whitten has joined Hauser & Wirth. The New York gallery announced its worldwide representation of the artist on Friday.

The news follows the first exhibition to span his entire career. “Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting” was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego in 2014. The retrospective traveled to the Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University and closed at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in January 2016.

Marc Payot, vice president and partner of Hauser & Wirth called Whitten “a pioneer of American art who has inventing new ways to exploit the materiality of paint while sharing powerful musings on race, culture, and the human condition.”

In a press release, he continued, adding that Whitten “is fearless in his efforts to innovate and negotiate between abstraction and narrative, the conceptual and the perceptual, the personal and the universal.”

“[Jack Whitten is] a pioneer of American art who has inventing new ways to exploit the materiality of paint while sharing powerful musings on race, culture, and the human condition.” — Marc Payot, Hauser & Wirth

BORN IN BESSEMER, ALA., before moving to New York where he attended The Cooper Union, Whitten enrolled as a pre-med student and Air Force ROTC cadet at Tuskegee Institute. There at the George Washington Carver Museum, he learned about the groundbreaking scientist, who also painted. Whitten has said, “I’m convinced today that a lot of my attitudes toward painting and making, and experimentation came from George Washington Carver. He made his own pigments, his own paints, from his inventions with peanuts. The obsession with invention and discovery impressed me.”

Today Whitten lives and works in Queens, N.Y., and for decades has spent summers in Crete. Over the course of his career, he has been committed to evolving his practice, experimenting with both technique and content. Social and cultural currency registers throughout his oeuvre, from the Civil Rights Movement early on, to Sept. 11 and the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, to President Obama. He has paid tribute to fellow artists, including Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, and Al Loving.

Meanwhile, one of his most recognized bodies of work is his Black Monolith series, which honors friends and pivotal figures with whom he shares an intellectual connection, such as Lawrence, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ralph Ellison, Barbara Jordan and Amiri Baraka.

In May 2016, Whitten will receive an honorary doctorate from Brandeis University, and a book of his writings will be published in 2017 by the university’s Rose Art Museum

At Hauser & Wirth, Whitten joins a roster of more than 60, including African African artists Ellen Gallagher, Rashid Johnson, and Mark Bradford, a fellow abstractionist.

Featuring new and historical works, Whitten’s first exhibition at the gallery will go on view in spring 2017. CT

 

TOP IMAGE: Jack Whitten in his studio. | Photo by Katherine McMahon. © Jack Whitten Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

 

BOOKSHELF
Published on the occasion of his first career-spanning exhibition, “Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting” masterfully documents Whitten’s practice and features a lengthy interview with the artist by Robert Storr.

 


Jack Whitten explains his practice, saying his definition of art is “structured feelings.” | Video by Walker Art Center

 

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JACK WHITTEN, “Cherrypicker,” 1990 (acrylic on canvas). | © Jack Whitten, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

 

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JACK WHITTEN, “Mee I,” 1977 (acrylic on canvas). | © Jack Whitten, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

 

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JACK WHITTEN, “NY Battleground,” 1967 (oil on canvas). | © Jack Whitten, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

 

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JACK WHITTEN, “Remote Control,” 2013 (acrylic on canvas). | © Jack Whitten, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

 

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JACK WHITTEN, “Apps For Obama,” 2011 (acrylic on hollow core door). | © Jack Whitten, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

 

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JACK WHITTEN, “April’s Shark,” 1974 (acrylic on canvas). | © Jack Whitten, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

 

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JACK WHITTEN, “The First Portal,” 2015 (acrylic on canvas). | © Jack Whitten, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

 

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JACK WHITTEN, “Black Monolith, II: Homage To Ralph Ellison The Invisible Man,” 1994 (acrylic and mixed media on canvas: molasses, copper, salt, coal ash, chocolate, onion, herbs, rust, eggshell, razor blade). | © Jack Whitten, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth