Alabama-born and New York-based painter Jack Whitten is our Studio artist this Sunday. Whitten is known for his gestural abstract paintings that are often classified as abstract expressionism. In the wake of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s, Whitten moved to New York in 1960 in an attempt to surround himself with more progressive ideals. He currently works out of his home studio above a pizza parlor in Queens.
I’d never guess at the mundane location of Whitten studio, looking at this photograph! The space looks clean, modern and very well-maintained. The artist had a big hand in designing his studio and his home, and I really like his sense of space and organization. The studio space itself is windowless except for a large skylight in the center of the ceiling – so the artist has full use of the wall space but also plenty of natural light.
There are several different tables in the studio and each is covered with a clean white tablecloth. The paints and supplies on top of them seem very well-organized, and it’s rare and interesting to see a painting studio that doesn’t seem to have paint on every surface! This is quite unlike the New York studio of Joyce Pensato, who seems determined to cover every wall with paint splatters.
Whitten has worked prolifically since receiving his bachelor’s degree from Cooper Union in 1964. Throughout his career, he has experimented with many different techniques of abstraction, from quickly applied, gestural brush strokes to heavily structured systematic painting. A retrospective of Whitten’s work was organized in 2014 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego and will travel to the Walker Art Museum this year.