More Dimensions Than You Know: Jack Whitten, 1979 – 1989
Hauser & Wirth London, South Gallery 27 September – 18 November 2017
Hauser & Wirth is pleased to present Jack Whitten’s first-ever solo exhibition in London and the gallery’s inaugural project with the artist in the United Kingdom. Whitten is an American abstract painter celebrated for his innovative transfiguration of paint in works equally alert to materiality, politics and metaphysics. Mentored by both Willem de Kooning and Norman Lewis, with a career spanning five decades Whitten holds a unique place in the narrative of postwar American art. Curated by Richard Shiff, this presentation has a historical focus, bringing together a large number of Whitten’s paintings from 1979 to 1989. These years marked a period of intense experimentation for the artist and reflect his intellectual engagement with contemporary changes in science and technology. Whitten’s work is a focus of ‘Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power’, on view at Tate Modern until 22 October 2017.
Whitten’s diverse practice bridges gestural abstraction and process art. He experiments ceaselessly to arrive at a nuanced language of painting that hovers between mechanical automation and spiritual expression. The common denominators across the many phases of Whitten’s artistic practice – which he describes as ‘conceptual’ – are zealous technical exploration and a mastery of abstraction’s potential to map geographic, social, and psychological locations, particularly within the African-American experience. To account for his experimental attitude to materials, Whitten recalls his time as a pre-medical student at Tuskegee Institute (today Tuskegee University) in the 1950s. He once said, ‘[It was] an all-black college where the African-American scientist George Washington Carver did all his experiments. His laboratory is still intact. He was also a painter. I’m convinced today that a lot of my attitudes toward painting and making, and experimentation came from George Washington Carver. He made his own pigments, his own paints, from his inventions with peanuts. The obsession with invention and discovery impressed me’.
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