Jack Whitten

April’s Shark (1974)
Acrylic on canvas
72h x 52w in (182.88h x 132.08w cm)
April’s Shark (1974)
Acrylic on canvas
72h x 52w in (182.88h x 132.08w cm)
Martin Luther King's Garden  (1968)
Oil on canvas
51.63h x 41.5w in (131.14h x 105.41w cm)
Martin Luther King's Garden (1968)
Oil on canvas
51.63h x 41.5w in (131.14h x 105.41w cm)
Untitled (Prelude to Alpha Group) (1975)
Acrylic on canvas with string
42h x 42w in (106.68h x 106.68w cm)
Untitled (Prelude to Alpha Group) (1975)
Acrylic on canvas with string
42h x 42w in (106.68h x 106.68w cm)
Omikron I  (1977)
Acrylic on canvas
52h x 64w in (132.08h x 162.56w cm)
Omikron I (1977)
Acrylic on canvas
52h x 64w in (132.08h x 162.56w cm)
Red, Black, Green (1980)
Acrylic on canvas
64h x 64w in (162.56h x 162.56w cm)
Red, Black, Green (1980)
Acrylic on canvas
64h x 64w in (162.56h x 162.56w cm)
Southern Exposure (1986)
Acrylic on canvas
40h x 50w in (101.6h x 127w cm)
Southern Exposure (1986)
Acrylic on canvas
40h x 50w in (101.6h x 127w cm)
Space is Clement: For Clement Greenberg (1994)
Acrylic on canvas
42h x 42w in (106.68h x 106.68w cm)
Space is Clement: For Clement Greenberg (1994)
Acrylic on canvas
42h x 42w in (106.68h x 106.68w cm)
Alexandrian Quartet: For John Lewis, MJQ (2001)
Acrylic on canvas
45h x 60w in (114.3h x 152.4w cm)
Alexandrian Quartet: For John Lewis, MJQ (2001)
Acrylic on canvas
45h x 60w in (114.3h x 152.4w cm)
Lateral Shift (2008)
Acrylic collage on canvas
36.25h x 80.25w in (92.08h x 203.84w cm)
Lateral Shift (2008)
Acrylic collage on canvas
36.25h x 80.25w in (92.08h x 203.84w cm)
Saint Louise Painting: For Louise Bourgeois (2010)
Acrylic collage on canvas
64.25h x 76w in (163.2h x 193.04w cm)
Saint Louise Painting: For Louise Bourgeois (2010)
Acrylic collage on canvas
64.25h x 76w in (163.2h x 193.04w cm)

Biography

 view entire CV PDF 267 K

Jack Whitten (b.1939) began his earliest experiments in painting during the 1960s by creating dynamic works inspired by Abstract Expressionism. Born and raised in Bessemer, Alabama, he moved to New York City in 1960 to attend The Cooper Union. Noted for raucous colors and density of gesture combined with topical content, his artwork of this period manifests emotionally complex meditations on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War.

Experimentation turned to abstraction for Whitten in the 1970s; a new method of painting developed, one that resonates more closely with photography. Gesture is removed from the making of the work; the paint and canvas are “processed”, produced from large troughs of paint dragged across the canvas with tools including squeegees, rakes, and Afro combs. This process yields palpable surface texture, line, and void.

Paint became a metaphor for skin during the 1980s when Whitten experimented with “casting” acrylic paints and compounds to create new surfaces and textures. In contrast to the narrative-based and didactic work made by many African-American artists during this period, Whitten’s artworks reintroduce gesture with aspects of sculpture and collage.

Since the 1990s, Whitten’s experiments with paint as a medium have progressed further towards sculpture, beginning with transforming paint compounds into tiles, and applying them to the canvas as mosaics. These artworks allude to ancient architecture and murals, and serve as both an homage to and memorial of celebrated public figures and intimate friends. Recently, Whitten has repurposed the gamut of techniques he developed over the decades to deepen his engagement with art history, re-contextualizing his experimentations to achieve innovative new surfaces, structures, and symbols.

The Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego presented Whitten’s first retrospective in September 2014. His work has been exhibited in the 1969 and 1972 Whitney Annuals at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and a landmark 1974 solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Recently, Whitten’s work as been featured at the Brooklyn Museum (2014); 55th Venice Biennale, Italy (2013); Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium (2014); Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT (2014); Rose Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA (2013); Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, GA (2012); Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, GA (2008); MoMA PS1, New York (2007); and Studio Museum in Harlem, NY (2006); among others. His work is represented in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Whitney Museum of Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Dallas Museum of Art, TX; Birmingham Museum of Art, AL; and High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; among others. Whitten received an Honorary Doctorate from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2014.

Articles / Reviews

  • Whitten San Diego Union-Tribune  October 17, 2014  PDF 529 K
  • Whitten Mousse  June 2014  PDF 474 K
  • Whitten ARTnews  June 2014  PDF 1 MB
  • Whitten New York Times  March 20, 2014  PDF 280 K
  • Whitten Artforum  December 2013  PDF 1.4 MB
  • Whitten Art Basel Miami Beach 2013 Brochure    PDF 194 K
  • Whitten Art in America  October 4, 2013  PDF 1.6 MB
  • Whitten New York Times  October 3, 2013  PDF 609 K
  • Whitten Boston Globe  September 19, 2013  PDF 275 K
  • Whitten Exhibition Catalogue  September 11, 2013  PDF 1 MB
  • Whitten Modern Painters  September 2013  PDF 1 MB
  • Whitten New York Times  July 12, 2013  PDF 142 K
  • Whitten Hyperallergic  July 6, 2013  PDF 634 K
  • Whitten New York Times  June 2013  PDF 1.7 MB
  • Whitten Blouin Art Info  May 2013  PDF 1.9 MB
  • Whitten New York Observer  March 12, 2013  PDF 390 K
  • Whitten Hyperallergic  February 20, 2013  PDF 155 K
  • Whitten Wall Street Journal  February 6, 2013  PDF 208 K
  • Whitten Chicago Tribune  June 27, 2012  PDF 674 K
  • Whitten Artforum  February 2012  PDF 6.1 MB
  • Whitten dArt International  Summer 2012  PDF 461 K
  • Whitten Artnet  September 15, 2011  PDF 560 K
  • Whitten Artforum.com  September 12, 2011  PDF 94 K
  • Whitten New York Observer  September 24, 2009  PDF 62 K
  • Whitten Art & Antiques  Summer 2009  PDF 2.4 MB
  • Whitten Art Lies  2009  PDF 161 K
  • Whitten Artforum  September 2008  PDF 0.8 MB
  • Whitten Artforum.com  May 2008  PDF 196 K
  • Whitten Atlanta Journal-Constitution  April 26, 2008  PDF 84 K
  • Whitten Atlanta Contemporary Art Center Catalogue  April 18, 2008  PDF 531 K
  • Whitten Art in America  Spring 2008  PDF 4.3 MB
  • Whitten Art in America  September 2007  PDF 16 MB
  • Whitten Brooklyn Rail  September 2007  PDF 210 K
  • Whitten Flash Art  March 2007  PDF 1.7 MB
  • Whitten Arts Magazine  March 1999  PDF 432 K
  • Whitten New Observations  Spring 1997  PDF 1.4 MB
  • Whitten Dazed & Confused  January 1997  PDF 3.2 MB
  • Whitten Art in America  May 1995  PDF 660 K
  • Whitten Art in America  October 1992  PDF 279 K
  • Whitten New York Times  June 26, 1992  PDF 130 K
  • Whitten Tema Celeste  1992  PDF 522 K
  • Whitten Arte y Espectaculos  May 20, 1991  PDF 2 MB
  • Whitten Arts Magazine  March 1991  PDF 208 K
  • Whitten Lehman College Art Gallery Catalogue  March-May 1991  PDF 1.9 MB
  • Whitten New York Times  December 30, 1990  PDF 383 K
  • Whitten New York Times  December 28, 1990  PDF 515 K
  • Whitten Detroit News  May 12, 1989  PDF 290 K
  • Whitten Introspectives  1989  PDF 759 K
  • Whitten Art Speak  October 1984  PDF 504 K
  • Whitten New York Times  February 10, 1984  PDF 189 K
  • Whitten Arts Magazine  June 1978  PDF 209 K
  • Whitten Artforum  January 1975  PDF 583 K
  • Whitten New York Times  August 31, 1974  PDF 590 K
  • Whitten Arts Magazine  March 1973  PDF 1 MB
  • Whitten Arts Magazine  February 1972  PDF 2.4 MB
  • Whitten ARTnews  April 1970  PDF 430 K
  • Whitten Arts Magazine  April 1970  PDF 441 K
  • Whitten Arts Magazine  March 1969  PDF 394 K
  • Whitten ARTnews  February 1969  PDF 347 K