Art 41 Basel
Feature Sector, Booth G9
Messe Basel, Hall 1
Alexander Gray Associates presented a micro-survey of New York-based, African-American abstract painter, Jack Whitten. Exhibited were paintings and works on paper spanning forty years, presenting a range of material inventions and social content in Whittenʼs career. Notable are paintings from the 1970s, including works from series in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum, the Cleveland Museum and the Studio Museum in Harlem.
Whittenʼs experiments with painting began in the 1960s, when inspired by Abstract Expressionism, he created dynamic works noted for their raucous colors and density of gesture—emotionally complex meditations on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; the Civil Rights Movement; and the Vietnam War. In 2007, MoMA/PS1 exhibited these paintings, including Martin Luther Kingʼs Garden (1968) for the first time since his 1968 show at the Alan Stone Gallery in New York, with an epic memorial painting, 9.11.01 (2006).
In the 1970s, Whittenʼs experimentation turned to abstraction, when he developed new methods of painting, in which brushstroke was removed from the making of the work; instead, paint and canvas were processed, using large troughs to hold paint, and dragging canvas across, with squeegees, rakes, and Afro combs to create surface texture, line, and voids. Such works, including Chinese Doorway (1974) were the subject of a 1974 solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum, curated by the late Marcia Tucker. Also in Basel, the gallery is proud to exhibit Siberian Salt Grinder (1974) a painting spotlighted in the landmark exhibition High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting 1967-1975, organized by Independent Curators International (curated by Katy Seigel) that completed its international tour in 2008. Works on paper and examples of paintings from Greek Alphabet series of the late 1970s will also be on hand.
The 1980s saw further experimentation with paint as a metaphor for skin, with Whitten “casting” surfaces and textures with acrylic paints and compounds. In works such as Southern Exposure (1986), Whitten combines gesture with aspects of sculpture and collage, at a time when narrative-based and didactic work was de rigeur for Black artists. In the 1990s and 2000s, Whittenʼs experiments with paint as a medium moved further towards sculpture, as paint compounds were transformed into mosaic-like tiles and were applied to canvases, referencing ancient architecture and murals. In this work, and into the current work, memorial and personae became sources for content, as works paid homage to celebrated figures and close friends of the artist, such as the painting E-Stamp II (The Black Butterfly: For Bobby Short) (2007).
Along with the galleryʼs 2007 and 2009 exhibitions, Whittenʼs work enjoys focused critical reevaluation from curators, critics, and art historians. In 2008, the Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center presented a survey exhibition which specifically explored the memorial content of Whittenʼs ongoing work. Whittenʼs work has been included in landmark exhibitions, including Contemporary Black Artists in America at the Whitney Museum (1971), Energy/Experimentation: Black Artists and Abstraction 1964–1980 at the Studio Museum in Harlem (2006). His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; the Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Cleveland Art Museum, Cleveland OH; and the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
About Art 41 Basel
The world's premier international art show for Modern and contemporary works, Art Basel features nearly 300 leading galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa. More than 2,500 artists, ranging from the great masters of Modern art to the latest generation of emerging stars, are represented in the show's multiple sections. The exhibition includes the highest-quality paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations, photographs, video and editioned works.
With its world-class museums, outdoor sculptures, theaters, concert halls, idyllic medieval old town and new buildings by leading architects, Basel ranks as a culture capital, and that cultural richness helps put the Art Basel week on the agenda for art lovers from all over the globe. During Art Basel, a fascinating atmosphere fills this traditional city, as the international art show is reinforced with exhibitions and events all over the region.