Published by Hauser & Wirth Publishers. Edited by Katy Siegel.
Jack Whitten's writings articulate his tireless reinvention of abstraction
A black man who grew up in the Jim Crow South, Jack Whitten (1939–2018) arrived in New York in 1959 and began a wide-ranging exploration into the nature of painting and art-making that would sustain more than five decades of work. Early in his career, in 1970, Whitten experienced his breakthrough moment: when he lifted a thick slab of paint off its support, he realized he could experiment within the physical, dimensional space of the paint itself. After that, all bets were off:" I cut paint, I laminate paint, I grind paint, I freeze paint, I boil paint," he said.
Approaching abstraction as scientist and mystic, Whitten probed the expressive and material possibilities of painting. He constantly changed styles, developed new methods and took up new subject matter, but it is precisely this spirit of curious inquiry that unites his relentlessly experimental career.
Jack Whitten: Notes from the Woodshed collects the artist's notes from his work in the studio alongside selected interviews and texts, presenting an in-depth look at his rich studio practice. This publication comes at a crucial time; after decades of neglect, the art world has just begun to take stock of what Whitten achieved in his body of work. Edited by Katy Siegel, one of Whitten's long-standing champions, this volume offers an intimate look at the artist in his element—in the studio.
Jack Whitten (1939–2018) was born in Bessemer, Alabama, and studied art at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he became involved in civil rights demonstrations. From 1960 to 1964 he studied art at Cooper Union, New York, falling in with the abstract expressionists of the day (Willem de Kooning was a particular influence and mentor). The Whitney mounted a solo exhibition of his paintings in 1974; in 1983 the Studio Museum in Harlem held a 10-year retrospective. In 2014, a retrospective exhibition was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, traveling to the Wexner Center for the Arts in 2015 and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 2015 and 2016. Whitten lived in Queens, New York, where he died on January 20, 2018.
Published by Gregory R. Miller & Co.. Text by Katy Siegel, Kelly Baum, Jack Whitten, Richard Shiff, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Kellie Jones. Interview with Courtney Martin.
Jack Whitten was one of the most important artists of his generation. His paintings range from figurative work addressing civil rights in the 1960s to groundbreaking experimentation with abstraction in the '70s, '80s and '90s to recent work memorializing black historical figures such as James Baldwin and W.E.B. Du Bois.
Whitten began carving wood in the 1960s in order to understand African sculpture, both aesthetically and in terms of his own identity as an African American, and continued developing this practice throughout his life. For the first time ever, these revelatory works are collected in Odyssey, accompanying a landmark exhibition coorganized by the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Odyssey features the sculptures made by Whitten over the past 50 years, as well as the Black Monolith series of paintings, and Whitten's own archival photographs documenting his life and process. The catalog includes major new texts from exhibition curators Katy Siegel and Kelly Baum, as well as contributions from philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, art historians Richard Shiff and Kellie Jones, a lengthy biographical interview with Whitten by art historian Courtney J. Martin and the essay "Why Do I Carve Wood?" by the artist himself.
Gorgeously illustrated with hundreds of illustrations and never-before-published photographs, Odyssey is a landmark exploration of one of the most significant artists of the 20th century, and a monument to a life and career that, as described by the Washington Post, "enriched the abstract tradition in Western art with fresh political and spiritual content."
Published by Hauser & Wirth Publishers. Text by Richard Shiff.
Jack Whitten (born 1939) is an American abstractionist celebrated for his innovative processes of applying and transfiguring paint in works equally alert to materiality, politics and metaphysics. This publication focuses on more than 20 of the artist’s paintings from the 1980s and features an essay by Richard Shiff, Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art at the University of Texas at Austin.
Whitten holds a unique place in the narrative of postwar American art: over the course of a five-decade career, he has bridged gestural abstraction and process art, experimenting ceaselessly to arrive at a nuanced language of painting that hovers between mechanical automation and personal expression. Whitten has had a profound influence on many artists working today, and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in recognition of his major contribution to the cultural legacy of the United States.
Published by Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. Text by Kathryn Kanjo, Robert Storr, Quincy Troupe.
For five decades, New York-based artist Jack Whitten (born 1939) has explored the possibilities of paint, the role of the artist and the allure of materials. As a child of the segregated South, he bears witness to expressions of evil and the resilience of the human spirit. From his first spectral canvases to his recent mosaic canvases, Whitten's compelling compositions have spanned a half-century of artistic innovation. Showcasing approximately 60 canvases, this survey--the first substantial volume on the artist--reveals Whitten as an innovator who uses abstraction in its newest idioms to achieve an enduring gravitas. Whitten's abiding engagement with scientific systems (as structure), social issues (as evidence) and commitment to the power of visual expression (materiality) show him to be an artist both of his time and for the present.