In March, a little more than a month after the artist Jack Whitten died at the age of 78, his gallery Hauser & Wirth presented a four-week display of Whitten’s final painting at its location in the old Dia building in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. That roughly four-foot-square painting, Quantum Wall, VIII (For Arshile Gorky, My First Love In Painting), 2017, is a shimmering example of Whitten’s mosaic paintings, which he made by piecing together small, thick hunks of acrylic paint and another materials into radiant abstractions. It suggests a joyous coming together of sky and ocean.
Now that painting is heading to Los Angeles for a show at Hauser’s sprawling gallery space there titled “Jack Whitten: Self Portrait With Satellites,” which will run June 23 through September 23. The exhibition will include a number of self-portraits and paintings from the artist’s collection, with an emphasis on his ability to “materialize philosophical, scientific, and mathematical concepts through abstraction,” as the gallery put it in press materials, as well as works he made in homage to key figures in his life, whether family members, friends, or artistic touchstones. (Among those he memorialized in his paintings were mathematician Alexander Grothendieck and writers Ralph Ellison and Édouard Glissant.)
The Hauser & Wirth exhibition will be the first show in Los Angeles of Whitten’s work since 1990, when Cure Gallery presented an exhibition of his work called “Reconstructions”—the only show he had in the city during his life. It comes at a huge moment for the artist, whose sculpture survey, “Odyssey: Jack Whitten Sculpture, 1963–2017,” is currently on view at the Baltimore Museum of Art, which will travel to the Met Breuer in New York in September. These shows follow on the heels of Whitten’s stunning career-spanning 2014 retrospective, “Five Decades of Painting,” which was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego and traveled to the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 2015.
The Hauser & Wirth show will be accompanied by a new book published by the gallery’s imprint and edited by Katy Siegel. Titled Jack Whitten: Notes from the Woodshed, it will collect writings that the artist completed in his studio, along with other texts. Writing in 2012, Whitten explained of the works he does based on the inspiration of certain individuals: “All of my memorial paintings are gifts to the people that inspired them . . . they are not mere dedications . . . they are gifts.”