Hauser & Wirth is pleased to announce worldwide representation of Jack Whitten, the American abstractionist celebrated for his innovative processes of applying and transfiguring paint in works equally alert to materiality, politics, and metaphysics.
Hauser & Wirth is pleased to announce worldwide representation of Jack Whitten, the American abstractionist celebrated for his innovative processes of applying and transfiguring paint in works equally alert to materiality, politics, and metaphysics. Whitten holds a unique place in the narrative of postwar American art: over the course of a five-decade career, he has constructed a bridge between gestural abstraction and process art, experimenting ceaselessly to arrive at a nuanced language of painting that hovers between mechanical automation and deeply personal expression.
Born in Bessemer, Alabama, in 1939, Whitten was an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement before moving north to New York City in the early 1960s and enrolling at Cooper Union. He mingled downtown with the Abstract Expressionists, absorbing the influence of Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Franz Klein, and Philip Guston, while engaging uptown with Norman Lewis and Romare Bearden. But Whitten would soon prioritize his own distinctly experimental vision, engineering breakthrough after breakthrough with techniques and materials, articulating new pathways between artworks and their inspirations. At times he has pursued quickly applied gestural techniques akin to photography or printmaking. At other times, the deliberative and constructive hand is evident. From his series of small Ghost canvases of the 1960s and subsequent pulled Slabs and dragged canvases of the 1970s, Whitten moved on to collaged acrylic Skins of the 1980s, and eventually to his more recent tessellated constructions – paintings that look like mosaics but are actually composed of dried-acrylic paint chips as tesserae unevenly set in wet paint.
The common denominators across the many phases of Whitten’s artistic practice – which he describes as ‘conceptual’ – are the avidity of his technical explorations and his mastery of abstraction’s potential to map geographic, social, and psychological locations, particularly within the African-American experience.
Hauser & Wirth’s first exhibition with Whitten will go on view in New York in spring 2017. The presentation will include recent and historical work by the artist and be accompanied by a scholarly catalogue.
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