Books

I Am Spirit: Reading Jack Whitten

Jack Whitten friends and scholars live inside of ‘Jack Whitten. Self Portrait With Satellites’ at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, 2018. Photo: Noé Montes
19 May 2020

Widely celebrated for his experimental approach to painting, Jack Whitten often turned to writing as a way to investigate, understand, and grapple with his practice and his milieu. ‘Notes from the Woodshed’ is the first publication devoted to Whitten’s writings and takes its name from the heading Whitten scrawled across many of his texts.

A reading of the publication took place within the artist’s first exhibition in Los Angeles in nearly 30 years, ‘Jack Whitten. Self Portrait With Satellites.’ Over the course of an hour, the recitations of personal anecdotes and musings opened a window into Jack’s mind, filling his language with new life and urgency. Listen below to readings of excerpted writings from the publication by close friends and former students, alongside artists and curators, recorded at the launch of the publication at our Los Angeles gallery in 2018.

Jack Whitten’s studio in 1983 © Jack Whitten Estate. Photo: Peter Bellamy

Betye Saar reading an excerpt from 10 March 2014, live inside of ‘Jack Whitten. Self Portrait With Satellites’ at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, 2018. Photo: Noé Montes

Betye Saar

Robin Coste Lewis reading ‘Mother Church Number 10: Homage to Whitten’, live inside of ‘Jack Whitten. Self Portrait With Satellites’ at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, 2018. Photo: Noé Montes

Robin Coste Lewis

Robin Coste Lewis is the former Los Angeles poet laureate and a winner of the National Book Award for her 2015 book of poems, The Voyage of the Sable Venus. She earned an MFA from New York University’s Creative Writing Program, where she was a Goldwater Fellow in poetry. Read Robin Coste Lewis’s tribute poem’ to the artist ‘Mother Church Number Ten: Homage to Whitten’ in Ursula Magazine.

Jack Whitten, ca. 1974 - 1975 © Jack Whitten Estate

Gary Simmons

Gary Simmons is an artist from New York City and former friend of Whitten. He remembers ‘Jack Whitten took me under his wing… he turned me on to Hammons’s work and that became an influence on how to put objects together, how meaning is constructed through the object’.

Joshua Chambers Letson reading an excerpt from 24 June 1964, live inside of ‘Jack Whitten. Self Portrait With Satellites’ at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, 2018. Photo: Noé Montes

Joshua Chambers Letson

Lily Blue Simmons


‘Notes from the Woodshed’ is the first publication devoted to Whitten’s writings and takes its name from the heading Whitten scrawled across many of his texts.

 

Full recording of readings from ‘Jack Whitten. Self Portrait With Satellites’ at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, 2018

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