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Jack Whitten

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Information about Jack Whitten

Profile image of Jack Whitten

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Painter

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Fish
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Crete
Favorite Quote:
Shit Happens.

Birthplace

Born:
12/5/1939
Birth Location:
Bessemer, Alabama

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Painter

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Fish
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Crete
Favorite Quote:
Shit Happens.

Birthplace

Born:
12/5/1939
Birth Location:
Bessemer
See how Jack Whitten is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Visual artist Jack Whitten was born on December 5, 1939 in Bessemer, Alabama to Annie B. Cross Whitten and Mose Whitten. He was a pre-med student at Tuskegee Institute before leaving the university in 1959. He then studied art at Southern University in Baton Rouge briefly, before moving to New York City and enrolling at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 1960, where he earned his B.F.A. degree.

In New York, Whitten became influenced by artists such as Willem de Kooning and Norman Lewis, as well as jazz musicians such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Whitten had his first group exhibition in 1965 at Allan Stone Gallery in New York, which also hosted his first solo exhibition in 1968. In the late 1960s, he became an art professor at The Cooper Union and School of Visual Arts. He later taught at Manhattan Community College. Beginning in the 1970s, Whitten broke away from abstract expressionist influences and began to experiment with tools he created to apply paint to canvas, such as a twelve foot rake that he called the “developer.” In 1974, he participated in a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 1983, a solo exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem celebrated his paintings from 1970 to 1980. In the 1980s, Whitten became interested in using paint as the base of a collage; and in the 1990s and the 2000s, he experimented with the casting of acrylic paint from molds and the construction of paintings as mosaics made from acrylic tesserae. His work was installed in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others. His work was also featured in a fifty year retrospective exhibition in 2014. With Hauser & Wirth and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp as his representation, Whitten has shown his work at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, Savannah College of Art and Design, Zeno X Gallery in Antwerp, Belgium, Art Basel in Switzerland, Walker Art Center, Alexander Gray Associates, and Atlanta Contemporary Art Center.

Whitten has been awarded the 2015 National Medal of Arts, John Hay Whitney Fellowship, an Individual Artist’s Fellowship from the National Endowments for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Fellowship. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the San Francisco Art Institute and Brandeis University in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

Whitten passed away on January 20, 2018 at age 78.

Jack Whitten was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 3, 2016 and October 27, 2016.

See how Jack Whitten is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jack Whitten's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jack Whitten lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jack Whitten describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jack Whitten recalls segregation in Bessemer, Alabama
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jack Whitten describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jack Whitten remembers his mother's first husband, James Monroe Cross
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jack Whitten lists his siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jack Whitten remembers his younger brother, Bill Whitten
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jack Whitten talks about his upbringing in Bessemer, Alabama
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Jack Whitten describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Jack Whitten describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Jack Whitten describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jack Whitten describes his father's job as a coal miner
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jack Whitten recalls his childhood interests in the arts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jack Whitten talks about his early jobs
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jack Whitten recalls learning how to hunt
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jack Whitten remembers influential people from his grade school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jack Whitten describes his experiences at Tuskegee Institute
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jack Whitten recalls his difficulties in the Air Force ROTC at the Tuskegee Institute
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jack Whitten recalls meeting Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jack Whitten describes bus segregation during the 1950s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jack Whitten recalls going swimming during his childhood in Bessemer, Alabama
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jack Whitten talks about his decision to transfer to Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jack Whitten recalls working in construction
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Jack Whitten talks about his summer jobs while attending Tuskegee Institute
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Jack Whitten recalls a civil rights protest at Southern University
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Jack Whitten remembers meeting Fats Domino in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jack Whitten recalls his decision to study at Cooper Union in New York City
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jack Whitten remembers the artists that he met at Cooper Union
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jack Whitten recalls his interactions with Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jack Whitten talks about his course of study at Cooper Union
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jack Whitten describes the art styles that influenced him at Cooper Union
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jack Whitten remembers attending music shows in New York City during the 1960s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Jack Whitten describes how music and science influenced his artwork
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Jack Whitten recalls his experiences in New York City during the 1960s
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Jack Whitten describes New York City's Lower East Side during the 1960s
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Jack Whitten talks about Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s influence on his art
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Jack Whitten describes the autobiographical content of his art during the 1960s
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Jack Whitten remembers his first marriage
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Jack Whitten describes the start of his teaching career in New York City
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Jack Whitten recalls his exhibitions in New York City art galleries during the 1960s
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Jack Whitten talks about the difficulty of making a living as an artist
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Jack Whitten describes his marriage to Mary Staikos Whitten
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Jack Whitten narrates his photographs, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Jack Whitten narrates his photographs, pt. 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Jack Whitten describes how his artistic style changed from the 1960s to the 1970s
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Jack Whitten talks about his decision to work with acrylic paint
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Jack Whitten describes how he began to use collage in his paintings, pt. 1
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Jack Whitten describes how he began to use collage in his paintings, pt. 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Jack Whitten talks about his use of tesserae in his paintings
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Jack Whitten describes his Greek alphabet series
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Jack Whitten talks about the concept of opticality in his art
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Jack Whitten recalls showing his work at the Whitney Museum of American Art
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Jack Whitten describes his college teaching career in New York City
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Jack Whitten recalls creating specialized tools for his paintings
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Jack Whitten shares his ideas about autobiographical content in art
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Jack Whitten describes his painting 'Dead Reckoning I'
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Jack Whitten talks about the concept of compression in abstract art
  • Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Jack Whitten describes his background in black history during his youth
  • Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Jack Whitten talks about the influence of scientific discoveries on his art
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Jack Whitten recalls his solo exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem
  • Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Jack Whitten talks about the fire that destroyed his home in 1980
  • Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Jack Whitten describes his home and studio in Tribeca, New York City
  • Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Jack Whitten describes the inspiration behind his artwork in the late 1980s
  • Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Jack Whitten recalls incorporating tesserae into his work in the 1990s
  • Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Jack Whitten talks about his love for undersea spearfishing
  • Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Jack Whitten recalls fishing in Greece
  • Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Jack Whitten describes his Black Monolith series, pt. 1
  • Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Jack Whitten describes his Black Monolith series, pt. 2
  • Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Jack Whitten talks about the process of making tesserae
  • Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Jack Whitten recalls the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, pt. 1
  • Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Jack Whitten recalls the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, pt. 2
  • Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Jack Whitten talks about his painting, '9-11-01'
  • Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Jack Whitten describes his 2007 solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art PS1
  • Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Jack Whitten talks about joining the Alexander Gray Associates gallery
  • Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Jack Whitten reflects upon political messages in his work during the 2000s
  • Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Jack Whitten describes his artistic interests at the time of the interview
  • Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Jack Whitten talks about his American exhibitions during the 2010s
  • Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Jack Whitten describes his European exhibitions during the 2010s
  • Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Jack Whitten talks about his family's reactions to his artwork
  • Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Jack Whitten recalls working with Hauser and Wirth
  • Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Jack Whitten remembers meeting President Barack Obama
  • Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Jack Whitten describes his plans for the future
  • Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Jack Whitten reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 11 Story: 9 - Jack Whitten talks about his artistic processes
  • Tape: 11 Story: 10 - Jack Whitten reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 11 Story: 11 - Jack Whitten describes his hopes for the future