Jack Whitten: The Greek Alphabet Series
Published by Dia Art Foundation.
Edited by Donna De Salvo, Matilde Guidelli-Guidi, Deirdre O'Dwyer. Foreword by Jessica Morgan. Text by Gregg Bordowitz, Donna De Salvo, Matilde Guidelli-Guidi, Courtney J. Martin, Fred Moten.
On Whitten’s pioneering 1970s series marking his move away from gestural painting
The first publication to delve deeply into Jack Whitten’s Greek Alphabet paintings (1975–78), this volume examines this remarkable series, which consists of variations on abstract, black-and-white compositions and experiments in mark-making. For these works, Whitten employed handmade tools and techniques including the comb, imprint and frottage.
The series is illuminated through essays by art historian Courtney J. Martin and Dia curators Donna De Salvo and Matilde Guidelli-Guidi. Authors Fred Moten and Gregg Bordowitz provide poetic reflections on Whitten’s art, biography and cultural importance. Materials from Whitten’s archives, including his own personal writings, supplement this unprecedented publication.
In his lifetime, Whitten never had the opportunity to exhibit more than a handful of these works. In publishing a significant number of these paintings together for the first time—with 40 color plates representing the 60-some paintings in the series—Jack Whitten: The Greek Alphabet Series makes possible a fuller appreciation of the formal and material permutations of Whitten’s practice.
Jack Whitten (1939–2018) was born in Bessemer, Alabama, studied art at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and moved to New York in 1960, where he had a solo exhibition at the Whitney in 1974 and a 10-year retrospective at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1983. In 2014, a retrospective was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, traveling to the Wexner Center in 2015 and the Walker Art Center in 2015–16. Whitten lived in Queens, New York, where he died in 2018.