The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Friday, September 20, 2019

The Met Breuer presents previously unknown sculptures by artist Jack Whitten
Jack Whitten. The Tomb of Socrates, 2009. Wild cypress, black mulberry, marble, brass, mixed media. Collection of the Artist's Estate © The Estate of Jack Whitten. Courtesy The Estate of Jack Whitten and Hauser & Wirth.

NEW YORK, NY.- On view at The Met Breuer from September 6 through December 2, 2018, Odyssey: Jack Whitten Sculpture, 1963–2017 presents the extraordinary and previously unknown sculptures of acclaimed American artist Jack Whitten (1939–2018), who has long been celebrated for his work as an innovative abstract painter. Featuring 40 sculptures and 18 of his most notable paintings, Odyssey is the first exhibition in New York City to span the entirety of Whitten’s career and the first time in 36 years that Whitten has enjoyed a monographic exhibition at a New York City museum. Ultimately, Odyssey does not only rewrite the history of a canonical artist whose oeuvre has yet to be fully explored; it also showcases an exciting, alternative to mainstream modernism and expand our understanding of the aesthetic vocabularies favored by artists in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

"This exhibition presents a thrilling opportunity to experience an important and virtually unknown component of Jack Whitten's work," commented Max Hollein, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Having his seminal sculptures and paintings here is also something of a homecoming—New York City and The Met were great sources of inspiration throughout the artist’s long and productive career. Our installation is a special tribute to Whitten‘s outstanding work and its interaction with the art of the past."

“With this exhibition, we are given the unique opportunity to view the African, Cycladic, and Minoan works which inspired Whitten, alongside his own interpretations,” added Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art, “and that is one of the many reasons that Odyssey: Jack Whitten lies at the very heart of The Met Breuer’s vision. In embarking on his voyage of exploration, the artist himself thought deeply about how best to approach history’s complex entanglements in each of his works, a process complemented here by The Met’s ability to combine art and expertise from many corners of the earth across humankind’s history to cast new light on this extraordinary artistic project.”

Whitten’s sculptures, which he first created in New York and later at his home on Crete, where he began to summer in 1969, consist of carved and sometimes charred wood, often in combination with found materials sourced from his local environment, including bone, marble, paper, glass, nails, and fishing line. Representing a radical break from the assemblages most often associated with the 1960s and 1970s, Whitten’s sculptures are of roughly five types—jugs, totems, guardians, reliquaries, and swords, many of which serve a ritualistic or commemorative function. Inspired by art historical sources rooted in Africa, the ancient Mediterranean, and the Southern United States, Whitten’s sculptures address themes of place, memory, family, and migration. They also give expression to a transnational, cosmopolitan perspective—one that reflects the geography of Whitten’s life and of the African diaspora as a whole.

Among the 18 paintings in the exhibition are Whitten’s entire Black Monolith series (1988–2017), displayed together as a group for the first time. Named for a rocky outcropping visible from his studio on Crete, the Black Monolith paintings are composed of acrylic tesserae that Whitten painstakingly assembled by hand. Each work in the series honors a leader in the world of black music, art, literature, and politics, from James Baldwin and Jacob Lawrence to Maya Angelou and Chuck Berry. Whitten’s monument to postcolonial poet and philosopher Édouard Glissant, Atopolis: For Édouard Glissant (2014), also is on view, along with Bessemer Dreamer (1986), a poignant ode to the artist’s place of birth (Bessemer, Alabama) and The Met’s own Delta Group II (1975), acquired the year it was made. These and other paintings in the exhibition illuminate the technical, conceptual, and thematic parallels between Whitten’s work in two and three dimensions, unifying his practice across media.

Reflecting a cross-disciplinary, trans-historical profile in perfect keeping with Whitten’s sensibility as an artist, Odyssey also features 16 objects from The Met’s collection of African, Greek, and American art, including an early Cycladic figure (2700–2600 B.C.), a Mycenean krater embellished with octopi (13th century), a Kongo Power Figure (Nkisi) (19th century), an Okpoto mask encrusted with resin and seeds (19th­–20th century), and a rare ceramic face vessel (ca. 1845–55) produced by an unknown slave in the Edgefield District of South Carolina. Integrated throughout the exhibition, these works reconstruct Whitten’s art historical debts, serving as potent reminders of the long, rich histories out of which contemporary art arises. From the beginning of his career, The Met was a key resource for Whitten. The Museum was one of the first places he encountered African art, and it was his introduction to African art, in turn, that prompted him to begin carving wood and to create some of the very sculptures featured in the exhibition.

Born in Bessemer, Alabama, in 1939, Whitten passed away in January 2018. He studied at Alabama’s Tuskegee University as well as Southern University, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the late 1950s. In 1960, he fled the Jim Crow South for New York, enrolling in The Cooper Union, from which he graduated in 1964 and at which he taught from 1971 to 1997, first as a visiting artist and later as professor. As he was developing the innovative painting techniques for which he is best known today, Whitten began to study African art, visiting not only the collections of The Met and the Brooklyn Museum but also of his first dealer, Allan Stone. In 1962, he began to carve wood, seeking advice from faculty member Leo Amino, fellow student Christopher Wilmarth, and friend Jeffrey Waite. In the 1960s, he befriended African American artists living uptown, such as Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence, as well as white artists based downtown, including Philip Guston and Barnet Newman. Both of these communities jointly influenced his approach to art. An important breakthrough in his sculptural practice occurred in 1969, when Whitten traveled to Crete for the first time with his Greek American wife, Mary (Staikos) Whitten. Later, in the mid-1980s, he built a summer home in the village of Agia Galini, where he produced the bulk of his sculptures. In keeping with the expanded geographic network in which he worked, Whitten’s vocabulary grew to include references to the art of the ancient Mediterranean, especially Minoan and Cycladic cultures. Just as Whitten’s sculptures incorporate local materials, so too do they recognize the places where they were made and pay homage to his family, ancestors, and personal pantheon of heroes, such as Malcolm X. Taken as a whole, his sculptures are formal and technical masterpieces, rich in historical, philosophical, and spiritual content. Whitten received many honors during his lifetime, including the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in 2015.

Odyssey: Jack Whitten Sculpture, 1963–2017 is curated by Kelly Baum, Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky Curator of Contemporary Art in The Met’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Katy Siegel, Senior Programming and Research Curator at the Baltimore Museum of Art and Thaw Chair in Modern American Art at Stony Brook University. The Met’s presentation is assisted by Meredith Brown, Research Associate in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Today's News

September 12, 2018

The Met Breuer presents previously unknown sculptures by artist Jack Whitten

Major US tourist sites in path of Hurricane Florence

Christie's to offer property from the collections of William Louis-Dreyfus

New York commemorates 17th anniversary of September 11

Thierry de Maigret to offer works from the collection of gallerist Rodolphe Stadler

New Orleans Museum of Art announces most significant gift of photographs in its history

Solo exhibition of new paintings by Antonio Santín on view at MARC STRAUS

Design Museum announces Beazley Designs of the Year nominations

Exhibition at Gagosian brings together sculptures from 1997 to the present by Romuald Hazoumè

Exhibition of new works by Austrian artist Gerwald Rockenschaub on view at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Salzburg

SculptureCenter unveils revised website that gives comprehensive access to scholarly materials produced by the museum

The National Gallery Prague launches extensive retrospective of František Kupka

Tilton Gallery opens Noah Purifoy's first solo exhibition on the East coast

The Menil Collection appoints Edouard Kopp as Chief Curator of Menil Drawing Institute

Parrotta Contemporary Art presents the award-winning work of British artist Edmund Clark

WIELS presents the work of René Daniels in a major exhibition: Fragments from an Unfinished Novel

Cross-generational group exhibition considers the gesture and its history

Susanne Rockweiler named Head of Development and Fundraising at Haus der Kunst

John Mollo's personal sketchbooks of the original Star Wars designs offered at Bonhams

First-known Bowie recording auctioned in Britain

Jenkins Johnson Projects opens a group exhibition curated by Jasmine Wahi

Saint Louis Art Museum records extraordinary attendance with 'Sunken Cities'

Unit London opens an exhibition of new works by London-based painter Will Martyr

Exhibition at Marianne Boesky Gallery features a selection of new large-scale works by Dashiell Manley

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- Holocaust 'masterpiece' causes uproar at Venice film festival

2.- To be unveiled at Sotheby's: One of the greatest collections of Orientalist paintings ever assembled

3.- Bender Gallery features paintings by up and coming Chicago artist Michael Hedges

4.- Lévy Gorvy exhibits new and historic works by French master in his centenary year

5.- Artificial Intelligence as good as Mahler? Austrian orchestra performs symphony with twist

6.- Fascinating new exhibition explores enduring artistic bond between Scotland and Italy

7.- Exhibition explores the process of Japanese-style woodblock production

8.- Robert Frank, photographer of America's underbelly, dead at 94

9.- The truth behind the legend of patriot Paul Revere revealed in a new exhibition at New-York Historical Society

10.- Hitler bust found in cellar of French Senate

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful