Jack Whitten 1939–2018

Jack Whitten. Photo: John Berens

American conceptual painter Jack Whitten has died aged 78. Having grown up in segregated Alabama, Whitten became an activist after witnessing Martin Luther King Jr’s speech during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and became involved with Civil Rights demonstrations in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he studied art at Southern University. He moved to New York in 1960 to study at Cooper Union where he began to experiment with colour and texture; his works from this period are known to address issues such as the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War. Moving away from narrative works, Whitten’s paintings turned to Abstract Expressionism conveying meaning through gesture and texture, the exploration of which continued throughout his five-decade-long career. In 2015 the Walker Art Center held a retrospective of his works. Odyssey: Jack Whitten Sculpture, 1965 – 2017, is due to open in April this year at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and in September travel to the Met Breuer in New York. 

22 January 2018