Hauser & Wirth Zurich, Limmatstrasse presents Whitten’s first solo exhibition in Switzerland, coinciding with Zurich Art Weekend and Art Basel. ‘Jack Whitten’ features paintings and works on paper created during the late 1960s, many of which have never been exhibited before.
Whitten’s artistic production of the late 1960s serves as a reflection of his experiences of living in a socially and creatively charged era, shaped by the events that constituted its tumultuous political landscape. Concluding this significant chapter of the artist’s constantly evolving practice, the painting’s distinctive style indicates Whitten’s success in forging his own path as an abstractionist.
As Whitten would demonstrate throughout his career, his instinct was to respond to his time and the sociopolitical climate that defined it. Combined with his experiences of growing up in the South and having adopted Martin Luther King Jr’s call for non-violence before arriving in New York, Whitten’s creative output was his attempt to make sense of the world and express his role within it.
This period of experimentation and the works that emerged from it led to an awakening by the end of the decade. Despite the lack of institutional support that he received as a Black artist in New York, he remained committed to his painterly endeavours and effectively reconfigured the discipline of painting. As the artist stated, ‘Experimentation expands consciousness. When consciousness expands freedom expands.’
Born in Bessemer, Alabama in 1939, Jack Whitten is celebrated for his innovative processes of applying paint to the surface of his canvases and transfiguring their material terrains. Although Whitten initially aligned with the New York circle of abstract expressionists active in the 1960s, his work gradually distanced from the movement's aesthetic philosophy and formal concerns, focusing more intensely on the experimental aspects of process and technique that came to define his practice.