Past Exhibitions

Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting

parallax image

This spring, join us to explore the groundbreaking work of African American artist Jack Whitten in the first career-spanning retrospective of his dynamic oeuvre. Featuring nearly 50 canvases, the exhibition traces the trajectory of Whitten’s restless formal experimentation from the mid-1960s to the present with paintings that, while abstract, often contain cultural, political, and social references.

Born and raised in Alabama, Whitten began painting in the 1960s, creating works that responded to a tumultuous political landscape that included the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the work of Martin Luther King Jr. In the ensuing decades, Whitten’s shape-shifting style has transformed and evolved, encompassing abstract and highly textured canvases; paintings with surfaces “processed” by rakes, squeegees, and other tools; and mosaic-like, mixed-media compositions that incorporate paint compounds transformed into tiles. Today, Whitten continues to respond to current events and pay homage to friends and public figures in his highly personalized yet incredibly approachable manner of abstraction. Whitten’s work has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New Museum, and MoMA PS1 in New York and The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT, as well as in the Wexner Center’s 2013 presentation of Blues for Smoke.

Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and made possible by generous lead underwriting support from Dr. Paul Jacobs and corporate support from RBC Wealth Management.

Additional funding has been provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, LLWW Foundation, and proceeds from the 2014 Biennial Art Auction. Institutional support of MCASD is provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Fund.

Abstract painting of deep blues and purples mixed with bright orange streaks

Jack Whitten
Chinese Sincerity, 1974 
Acrylic on canvas
67 ½ x 40 in.
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Museum purchase, International and Contemporary Collectors Funds. © Jack Whitten.
Photo by Pablo Mason.

Installation shot of several Jack Whitten paintings in the Wexner Center galleries

Installation view of Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting at the Wexner Center. Photo: Sven Kahns.

Abstract painting of a black monolith against a teal background made up of several small acrylic tiles

Jack Whitten
Black Monolith, II: Homage to Ralph Ellison The Invisible Man, 1994
Acrylic, molasses, copper, salt, coal, ash, chocolate, onion, herbs, rust, eggshell, and razor blade on canvas
58 x 52 in.
Brooklyn Museum, William K. Jacobs, Jr. Fund 2014.65.
© 2015 Jack Whitten

Large abstract painting of white pulled across several earth tones

Jack Whitten
Prime Mover, 1974
Acrylic on canvas 
54 1/4 x 75 1/4 in.
Mott-Warsh Collection, Flint, MI.
© Jack Whitten.

Layered abstract painting in black with blue graphic circles like a bullseye

Jack Whitten
Dead Reckoning I, 1980
Acrylic on canvas
84 x 84 in. 
The Studio Museum in Harlem; gift of Bill Whitten 84.16.
© Jack Whitten

Layered abstract painting with black and white background and colored fragments

Jack Whitten 
Mask of God I (For Joseph Campbell), 1987
Acrylic on canvas
40 x 31 in.
Courtesy the artist, Alexander Gray Associates, New York; Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
© Jack Whitten

Patrons in front of a Jack Whitten painting in the Wexner Center galleries

Installation view of Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting at the Wexner Center

Line-up of three Jack Whitten paintings in the Wexner Center galleries

Installation view of Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting at the Wexner Center. Photo: Sven Kahns.

Line-up of three Jack Whitten paintings in the Wexner Center galleries

Installation view of Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting at the Wexner Center. Photo: Sven Kahns.

Line-up of three Jack Whitten paintings in the Wexner Center galleries

Installation view of Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting at the Wexner Center. Photo: Sven Kahns.

Portrait of Jack Whitten standing in front of one of his works

Jack Whitten (with Atopolis: For Edouard Glissant, 2014), 2014
Image courtesy of the artist and Alexander Gray Associates, New York
Photo: John Berens.

GENERAL OPERATING SUPPORT
FOR THE WEXNER CENTER

Greater Columbus Arts Council

The Columbus Foundation

Nationwide Foundation

Ohio Arts Council

close

Past Exhibitions

Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting