Jack Whitten

  • Born 1939 in Bessemer, AL, USA

Jack Whitten works in gestural abstraction, incorporating aspects of sculpture and collage. During his pre-medical studies at Tuskegee Institute, Whitten discovered the legacy of inventor, scientist, and artist George Washington Carver (1860–1943). In the late 1950s, while studying art at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he became involved in the civil rights movement. Whitten moved to New York in 1960 and earned a BFA degree from Cooper Union in 1964. During the 1960s, Whitten created dynamic works, from brightly colored abstractions to ghostly evocations in his “Head” series (1964). He often experiments with color, technique, and materials (iron oxide, dry pigments, crushed Mylar, ash, bone, and blood). During the 1970s he created textured surfaces with squeegees, rakes, and Afro combs. In the 1980s he came to consider paint as similar to skin, but in the 1990s, he began to create canvases with small painted tiles. Whitten’s work has been featured at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013); MoMA PS1, New York (2007); and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2006). He received an honorary doctorate from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2014

Artworks by Jack Whitten in the exhibition