Jack Whitten: Cosmic Soul
Sixty years of topographical abstractions from the late virtuoso of material experimentation
This comprehensive monograph surveys the work of Black American artist Jack Whitten, known for his swirling, mosaic-like abstractions and his innovative material experimentations, especially with acrylic paint. Resembling topographical maps, Whitten’s works rely heavily on the use of geometry and rhythmic, gestural structures to induce an artistic and spiritual process that he identifies as “mapping the soul.” Focusing on pivotal developments over his six-decade career, the publication is generously illustrated with Whitten's vast body of work. Throughout the volume, art historian Richard Shiff provides critical interpretations of Whitten’s painting, sculpture and artistic philosophy.
Jack Whitten (1939–2018) was born in Bessemer, Alabama, and was raised in the Jim Crow South. He studied art at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he was heavily involved in civil rights demonstrations. After moving to New York in 1960, he studied art at Cooper Union and quickly fell in love with, and was deeply influenced by, the Abstract Expressionist painters. Whitten had a solo exhibition at the Whitney in 1974 and a 10-year retrospective at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1983. In 2014, a retrospective exhibition was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, traveling to the Wexner Center for the Arts in 2015 and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 2015 and 2016. Whitten lived in Queens, New York, where he died in 2018.