INTERVIEW BY SCOTT INDRISEK
PHOTO BY KRISTINE LARSEN
Though he’s been making work since the 1960s, Jack Whitten is in the midst of a well-deserved renaissance. His pivotal experiments in process-driven abstraction were revisited in a major show on view through March at the SCAD Museum of Art, in Savannah, and also included in “NYC:1993” at the New Museum this past spring. This month new paintings go on view at New York’s Alexander Gray Associates, and pieces from 1971 to 1973 will be shown at Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum from September 17. In 2014, the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego will give Whitten his first major retrospective. Scott Indrisek met with the artist at his studio in Sunnyside, Queens, to talk about his experimentations with paint.
How do you work with paint as collage, exactly?Collage has been sort of the keystone of modernist thought. With Picasso, with Matisse. What I have done is remove the paint from the canvas, which makes it physical. I can pick it up and hold it in my hand, I can cut it and I can reapply it. This is the essence of the notion of making a painting as opposed to painting a painting.Can we talk a bit about your rather unique technical process?I make these strips of acrylic beforehand, all in different shapes. And then when I put the strips into the wet field of paint, they relax. It’s very conceptual. Everything comes together with the last step. This is not an overlay, that’s an inlay; it’s inlaid into a field of wet acrylic, and when that happens, you get a strange spatial juxtaposition. For painting, that’s a new space. I first saw a glimpse of that space in the ‘70s, and I’ve been chasing it ever since. But now I’ve chased it up to point where I can force it into a corner.
To read complete interview pick up a copy of the September 2013 issue of Modern Painters on newsstands now or read online here.