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Walker Reader

Jack Whitten

Born in Bessemer, Alabama, Jack Whitten (1939–2018) is a New York–based artist who for more than five decades has explored the possibilities of paint, the role of the artist, and the allure of material essence in his innovative studio process. After moving to New York in the early 1960s to attend Cooper Union, Whitten had a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art (1974) and a retrospective at the Studio Museum in Harlem (1983). Long involved in the civil rights movement, Whitten created “memorial paintings”—several of which were featured in the exhibition Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting (on view at the Walker Art Center September 2015 through January 2016)—which pay homage to cultural events and figures ranging from Ralph Ellison and Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre of 2012 and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

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