The Walker Art Center will present “Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting,” the largest full-career retrospective of the American painter Jack Whitten at the Walker from September 13, 2015 through January 24, 2016 in the Target and Friedman Galleries.
For the past 50 years, Jack Whitten has explored the possibilities of paint, the role of the artist, and the allure of material essence in his innovative studio process. With compositions that are abstract and elegiac, Whitten foregrounds the material properties of paint—pigmentation, viscosity, and mark—to capture the momentary and suggest the enduring. Featuring some 60 pieces, the traveling retrospective charts the artist’s work across the decades, bringing together his best-known canvases alongside significant but under-recognized bodies of work.
“For five decades Jack Whitten has produced inventive abstract work steeped in questions of history, culture, race, and identity in America,” said Olga Viso, Executive Director of the Walker Art Center. “The Walker is thrilled to present the first exhibition to span the full breadth of the artist’s work in depth.”
Born in Bessemer, Alabama in 1939, Jack Whitten came of age in the segregated South and was an active participant in the civil rights movement before moving to New York City in the early 1960s, where he enrolled at Cooper Union and discovered his own experimental language of abstraction. As a young painter, Whitten moved freely between communities of racially-identified artists and those associated with the New York School whom he met at the Cedar Bar. Throughout the 1970s as he honed his materials-based experimentations, Whitten emphasized formal innovation and devised tools to help produce his effects—long-handled squeegees, rakes, and serrated combs that allowed him to realize the total picture plane in a single gesture. Many of the resulting works were featured in Whitten’s 1974 one-person exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Join artist Jack Whitten and art historian Richard Shiff for a wide-ranging discussion about the artist’s decades-long commitment to the medium of painting. Shiff, a renowned scholar and professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who has published widely on Barnett Newman, Willem de Kooning, Ellsworth Kelly, and others, will engage Whitten in a dialogue about his survey exhibition, “Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting,” as well as the past, present, and future of the medium.
Opening-Day Artist Talk
Sunday, September 13, 2 pm