Retrospective

‘A Recrudescent Interest in Sublime Visions’: On Jack Whitten’s Early Paintings, in 1969

Jack Whitten, Zen Master, 1968, oil on canvas. COURTESY ALLAN STONE PROJECTS, NEW YORK/ALLAN STONE COLLECTION

Jack Whitten, Zen Master, 1968, oil on canvas.

COURTESY ALLAN STONE PROJECTS, NEW YORK/ALLAN STONE COLLECTION

With a show of Jack Whitten’s ’60s paintings at Allan Stone Projects in New York, we turn back to two reviews from the ARTnews archives, from 1969 and 1970, of early shows by the New York–based artist. The reviews follow in full below.

“Reviews and Previews”
By Natalie Edgar
February 1969

Jack Whitten [Stone] is a painter—a rarity among young artists being exhibited today. The intimacy of the hand which leaves its imprint and the glyphs and gestures of a spontaneous approach reveal his enthusiasm for painting. A certain exuberance carries through—through the abstract landscapes which start from a matrix of simple shapes and explode out into instantaneous fragments, through the studies of the nude and other experiments.

Jack Whitten, Untitled, 1964, pastel on paper. COURTESY ALLAN STONE PROJECTS, NEW YORK/ALLAN STONE COLLECTION

Jack Whitten, Untitled, 1964, pastel on paper.

COURTESY ALLAN STONE PROJECTS, NEW YORK/ALLAN STONE COLLECTION

“Reviews and Previews”
By Harris Rosenstein
April 1970

Jack Whitten [Stone] may be grouped with the “New Informalist” painters; as a group they tend to illustrate their position by a certain predictable iconoclasm toward formalist antecedents which, like hanging your jacket on a bronze bust when it happens to be convenient, is not entirely a matter of disrespect. Whitten’s formal device is a rectangular, square or diamond form imposed on the ground in a manner resembling collage, with a loose, brushy profusion of colors working across the borders. In Light Sheet the format is that of an Albers Square, but the flow of colors streaking toward the center betokens the antithetical inspiration of the Saturn approach in 2001. In the large tondo To My Valentine, a pink diamond is projected outward by making it seem to screen a light source whose rays stream out from its borders. Behind that a faint, large diamond is discernible through streaming color, suggesting mysterious reflection in some sci-fi heaven. One cannot avoid the impression here of a recrudescent interest in sublime visions, a sort of outer-space Hudson River School, but one also admires the strong and direct feeling, even fervor, that pervades the work, and the clear ability it demonstrates.

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