Long Island City, NY
This one-person exhibition by Jack Whitten prominently featured his large-scale 2005 painting 9.11.01 that was made in response to the September 11th tragedy, as well as the Martin Luther King series that the artist made in the 1960s. Together these bodies of work capture the emotional fervor of two defining moments in American history.
Riffing on the motto "blood, money, and oil," 9.11.01 utilizes the pyramid from the U.S. dollar bill as its primary compositional element and incorporates a wide range of found symbolic imagery made from plaster molds and cast in acrylic paint to construct a collage. Measuring 10 feet high and 20 feet long, this mural-size painting nimbly balances abstraction and representation. The black triangular geometry can be read as a dark ziggurat, a monolithic form covered by smoke and fire.
Similarly, Whitten's series of paintings, inspired by the life and death of Martin Luther King, Jr., blend elements of abstract expressionism and figuration. While the works are inspired by Willem de Kooning's "Woman" series from the 1950s, they also take into account the turmoil of the time—the atmosphere of struggle and protest of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, as well as the four political assassinations of Dr. King, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Malcolm X.
The exhibition was organized by P.S.1 Curatorial Advisor Phong Bui.