Jack Whitten, ‘Birmingham’, 1964, Brooklyn Museum

Image rights: © Jack Whitten

Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties, Brooklyn Museum, 2014

Collection of the artist, courtesy of the artist and Alexander Gray Associates, New York.

About Jack Whitten

Early on, Jack Whitten was influenced by both the Bauhaus and Abstract Expressionism, but after meeting William de Kooning the balance tilted toward the latter. Blending figuration and abstraction, Whitten’s emotionally riveting gestural works—including a series on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—touched upon the racial turmoil he understood so well as an African American from the South. The 1970s marked a stylistic rupture, after which Whitten endeavored to define “a new spatial perception” by “experimenting with the possibilities of paint without imposing the added burden of psychological implications.” In this vein, he began to draw large fields of color across his canvases with Afro combs, squeegees, and homemade rakes to create what he called “Energy Fields”. Whitten’s recent experimentations take the form of mosaics, wherein he transforms paint compounds into tiles and applies them to canvas.

American, b. 1939, Bessemer, Alabama, based in New York, New York