For the primary time ever, a complete exhibition devoted to the late artist Jack Whitten’s landmark “Greek Alphabet” sequence is on view at Dia Beacon, increasing the general public’s understanding of Whitten’s experimental follow. Within the sequence, Whitten departs from his earlier Summary Expressionist model of portray and as an alternative adopts the Greek alphabet as the place to begin for black and white compositions, created with handmade instruments and distinctive purposes.
Whitten continued to experiment with the physicality of paint on canvas all through his profession, switching from oil to acrylic within the Nineteen Sixties and transferring towards extra conceptual concepts, in distinction to the Surrealist and Figurative Expressionist types that first captivated him.
In an unique interview with Art21 filmed simply earlier than his loss of life in 2018, Whitten defined how his artwork was knowledgeable by his experiences as a younger Black man within the segregated South, and the way it modified over the course of his profession. “The younger artist has to have one thing to react to,” he stated, noting his involvement within the political protests through the Civil Rights period.
He additionally mentioned his impressions upon arriving in New York’s artwork world in 1960. “I met Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, and Jacob Lawrence,” he stated. “The scene was open. Invoice de Kooning would discuss to you!”
Not like his contemporaries, Whitten’s work was not explicitly figurative, although he did reference vital Black figures like Depend Basie and James Baldwin in his Black Monolith abstractions. “I’m not a story painter. I don’t do the thought, or the portray being the illustration of an thought, I don’t do this,” he stated. “It’s all concerning the materiality of the paint.”
Watch the video, which initially appeared as a part of Art21’s sequence Prolonged Play, under. “Jack Whitten: The Greek Alphabet Work” is on view at Dia, Beacon by July 10, 2023.
That is an installment of “Artwork on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet Information and Art21 that brings you clips of news-making artists. A brand new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship sequence Artwork within the Twenty-First Century is out there now on PBS. Catch all episodes of different sequence, like New York Shut Up and Prolonged Play, and be taught concerning the group’s instructional packages at Art21.org.
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