JACK WHITTEN: I AM THE OBJECT — AT HAUSER & WIRTH gallery

Jack Whitten
I am the Object
Hauser & Wirth Gallery
548 West 22nd Street, New York 10011
5 November 2020 – 23 January 2021

Beginning 5 November 2020, Hauser & Wirth New York will present rarely seen works made by American artist Jack Whitten (1939 – 2018). The exhibition focuses on his practice from 1991 through 2000, a period of intense experimentation during which, deeply affected by tumultuous world events, he strove to incorporate them into his work. Blurring the boundaries between sculpture and painting, and between the studio and the world, the multidimensional works on view combine geometric abstraction and found objects to mine spiritual and metaphysical thematic veins.

Totem 2000 III
Jack Whitten
2000
Acrylic on Plywood Panel
71.8 x 61 cm / 28 1/4 x 24 in
© Jack Whitten Estate
Photo: Dan Bradica

Among works on view are examples from Whitten’s Totem and Mask series of paintings, powerful elegiac works inspired by contemporary events that held deep significance for the artist. These commemorative works reveal Whitten’s ongoing fascination with African sculpture and his use of unconventional materials – acrylic, recycled glass, plywood and eggshells – in intricate, mosaic-like compositions. In ‘Mask II: For Ronald Brown’ (1996), Whitten recalls the Commerce Secretary in President Bill Clinton’s cabinet, whose untimely death in a plane crash was mourned in the Black community across America. Whitten’s homage to Brown contains layers of reference imagery forming a triangle, reflecting the symbiotic relationship between spirituality, thought, and syntax. For Whitten, honoring the contributions by important Black figures was a recurrent theme in his work, as seen with his Black Monolith series.