was renowned for his boundary-pushing abstractions called “Slabs” from the early 1970s, which earned him a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum
in 1974, thrusting the Alabama-born, Cooper Union-educated black painter into the art world’s center stage. From the outset of his five-decade career
, though, Whitten worked in many styles, from traditional formalism to experimental modernism. In 2011, Whitten created his acrylic mosaic Apps for Obama,
which depicts the artist’s vision of the former president’s iPad; five years later, Obama presented Whitten with the prestigious National Medal of Arts in September 2016. Hauser & Wirth
, which has represented Whitten since 2016, announced his death on Sunday evening, calling him “an artist of endless inventiveness, originality, and honesty, as well as a wonderful friend. His intelligence, compassion, and love for life have influenced all of us who knew and worked with him.” A major survey of the artist’s work, which has been in planning since last year, will open at the Baltimore Museum of Art this April and travel to New York City’s Met Breuer in September.