Biography

Jack Whitten was an American abstract artist born in Bessemer, Alabama. He attended Tuskegee University as a pre-medical student and ROTC cadet. He later transferred to Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to study art.  Whitten received his BFA in painting from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 1964. 

 

Early on, Jack Whitten was influenced by both the Bauhaus and Abstract Expressionism. As he became more established as an artist, he veered into abstraction. He began to paint his canvases with various tools including Afro combs, squeegees, and homemade rakes. Whitten would usea twelve-foot-long wooden rake to move large amounts of acrylic paint in a single gesture. These paintings became known as his slab paintings, large groupings of paint formed by a single movement. Whitten’s newest creations take the form of mosaics, where he converts paint compounds into tiles and applies them to canvas.

 

Whitten’s work was exhibited at Baltimore Museum of Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art (2017); Hauser & Wirth (2017); The Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego presented Whitten’s first retrospective Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting 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)); Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium (2014); Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT (2014); Rose Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA (2013); 55th Venice Biennale, Italy (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; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; and the Mott-Warsh Collection, Flint, MI; among others. Whitten received an Honorary Doctorate from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2014.

 

Related categories: Post-War American Art, New York Artists, 20th Century Art, Line, Form, and Color, Gestural Abstraction, United States, Process-Oriented, Gestural, Painting, Large Brushstrokes/Loose Brushwork, Irregular Curvilinear Forms, Patterns, Racial and Ethnic Identity, Mixed-Media