Over the course of a five-decade career, Jack Whitten (1939–2018) made it his mission to disrupt the discipline of art history through experiments with material, process, and technique. He effectively constructed a bridge between gestural abstraction and process art, experimenting ceaselessly to arrive at a nuanced language of painting that hovers between mechanical automation and deeply personal expression. Though best-recognised as a painter and sculptor, Whitten was also a strategic and thoughtful draughtsman. Beginning 28 January 2020, Hauser & Wirth is pleased to present the first major survey of the artist's works on paper. This unique body of work serves as a testament to the immense investigation and exploration that Whitten pursued in order to make manifest his ideas and methods.
Jack Whitten. Transitional Space. A Drawing Survey. illuminates the impressive breadth of the artist's career and practice. The exhibition demonstrates the artist's oftentimes playful dedication to his search for and discovery of his own visual language. Paper not only lent itself as an effective medium, it also provided Whitten a new space with infinite possibilities of freedom. Working on a two-dimensional plane enabled him to experiment with papers of varying qualities, as well as tools of his own creation. In this light, working on paper can be perceived as scientific research. With a hypothesis in mind, Whitten worked tirelessly to come to a conclusion about the sociocultural climate in which he lived, the history of art that he was attempting to subvert, and how to figuratively represent the many layers of information packed inside his mind.
Working on paper was an integral part of the artist's process and maturation, as well as his technical development and innovations. It is through his experiments with the properties of different papers and mediums that he was able to achieve and arrive at numerous processes and new techniques. He used everything from watercolour to toner, to cuttlefish ink, to homemade walnut ink, to an endless variety of Japanese and specialty papers. The trial-and-error of Whitten's methodology can be felt through the multiple versions and renditions he created of particular works, many of which served as preliminary studies for subsequent paintings and monumental series.
Press release courtesy Hauser & Wirth.