Whitten's objects in carved wood and found materials revisit and reclaim the forms, rituals and spirituality of African sculpture. -Roberta Smith, New York Times
Jack Whitten was one of the most important artists of his generation. His paintings range from figurative work addressing civil rights in the 1960s to groundbreaking experimentation with abstraction in the '70s, '80s and '90s to recent work memorializing black historical figures such as James Baldwin and W.E.B. Du Bois.
Whitten began carving wood in the 1960s in order to understand African sculpture, both aesthetically and in terms of his own identity as an African American, and continued developing this practice throughout his life. For the first time ever, these revelatory works are collected in Odyssey, accompanying a landmark exhibition coorganized by the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Odyssey features the sculptures made by Whitten over the past 50 years, as well as the Black Monolith series of paintings, and Whitten's own archival photographs documenting his life and process. The catalog includes major new texts from exhibition curators Katy Siegel and Kelly Baum, as well as contributions from philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, art historians Richard Shiff and Kellie Jones, a lengthy biographical interview with Whitten by art historian Courtney J. Martin and the essay Why Do I Carve Wood? by the artist himself.
Gorgeously illustrated with hundreds of illustrations and never-before-published photographs, Odyssey is a landmark exploration of one of the most significant artists of the 20th century, and a monument to a life and career that, as described by the Washington Post, enriched the abstract tradition in Western art with fresh political and spiritual content.
About the Author
Katy Siegel is the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Endowed Chair in Modern American Art at Stony Brook University and contributing editor at Artforum. She is the author of "The Heroine Paint" and coauthor of Art Works.
Richard Shiff is the Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art and the director of the Center for the Study of Modernism at the University of Texas at Austin.
Kwame Anthony Appiah writes the Ethicist column for The New York Times Magazine. A professor of philosophy and law at New York University, he is the best-selling, award-winning author of The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity; Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers; The Ethics of Identity; and The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen.
Kellie Jones studied Writing for Young People in England, Publishing in Scotland and Japanese in Japan. A fan of anime and Asian dramas, the busier Kellie is, the more likely she will embark on an epic 50+ episode series whose subtitles leave no room for multitasking. After bookselling in Australia, Kellie is now a children's book editor in Leicester, UK.
Courtney E. Martin is a writer, teacher, and speaker based in Brooklyn. She is the author of Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, The American Prospect, and the Christian Science Monitor, among other national publications, and she is a blogger for Feministing.com.
"Whitten saw interconnected environmental, technological, and political crises looming--and while, in his art, he often reached back into the past, he also projected into the future, imagining how we could protect ourselves from ruin."--Tess Thackara "Artsy "
A gorgeous, loquacious exhibition.--Roberta Smith "The New York Times "
Whitten repurposed traditional forms with the same ease that marked his movement between modes of visual representation.--Albert Mobilio "Bookforum "
His objects in carved wood and found materials revisit and reclaim the forms, rituals and spirituality of African sculpture.--Roberta Smith "New York Times "
During decades of summers on Crete, [Whitten] carved and embellished extraordinary wooden sculptures, magisterial wonders in wild cypress, black mulberry, cherry, olive, and oak, whose mysteries are heightened with the addition of fish bones, seashells, spark plugs, rusted nails, hidden compartments.--Andrea K Scott "The New Yorker "
Now Whitten, speaking as it were from beyond the grave, has given his audience a kind of double surprise.--Sanford Schwartz "The New York Review of Books "