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Jack Whitten lectures at the University of Connecticut

 Digital Record


  • Creation: 1971, 1988


Painter Jack Whitten delivered 2 lectures. He spoke on 3/17/1971 (2015-0002/RR295).

Biographical / Historical

Originally not an artist, Whitten attended Tuskegee University as a pre-medical student and ROTC cadet, but transferred to Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to study art in 1960. There, he became involved in the American civil-rights movement and took part in the spring 1960 student demonstrations, staging sit-ins and a shutdown of the university. After living in New Orleans, Whitten moved to New York City, where he received his BFA in painting from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 1964.

While Whitten’s early work combined figuration and abstraction, he later made a significant conceptual and stylistic shift, moving from oil paint to acrylic to focus on the process and materiality of painting. Whitten’s “developer”—a twelve-foot-long wooden rake invented by the artist to move large amounts of acrylic paint in a single gesture—resulted in his “slab” paintings, large color fields defined by a single movement. Whitten’s proclivity for invention also manifested in his signature kind of tesserae: small cubes cut from slabs of acrylic paint and adhered to the canvas, angled to catch and reflect light. Investigating the notion of paint as a collage element, Whitten used the tesserae as a vehicle to further explore his passion for science and technology; he thought of the tesserae as individual bytes of information.

His works are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Cleveland Museum of Art, among others.

Existence and Location of Originals

Original audio recordings reside in the University of Connecticut, Black Experience in the Arts Collection, Archives & Special Collections, UConn Library.

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US