While Jack Whitten’s early work combined figuration and abstraction, he became known for his conceptual advancements, focusing on the materiality of paint. Constantly inventing in the studio, Whitten created a tool he called the “developer,” a twelve-foot-long wooden rake used to move large amounts of acrylic paint in a single gesture. He also created a signature kind of tesserae: small cubes cut from slabs of acrylic paint and adhered to the canvas, angled to catch and reflect light. For over four decades, Whitten utilized the tesserae to develop his Black Monoliths, a series of abstracted tributes to Black artists, musicians, and public figures such as Ralph Ellison, Chuck Berry, and W.E.B. Du Bois. One of the most influential abstract and conceptual painters of his generation, Whitten lived in New York City, where he passed away in January 2018.

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