“There’s no destination, there’s only the journey.”
Jack Whitten came of age in the South and was involved in the Civil Rights movement while he was a student at Tuskegee and Southern University. After a demonstration in Baton Rouge left an indelible mark on his psyche, Whitten left Louisiana to attend Cooper Union in New York. The art he created in the 1960’s was an expression Whitten’s experiences in the south and his style was fueled by the Abstract Expressionist movement coming out of the dynamic, politically charged, culturally vibrant lower east side. In the late ’60’s he abandoned his colorful ab-ex work which had become too responsive to the pain of his past. As the artist explained in a 2016 lecture at Boston University, the evolution of his slab paintings transformed the pain from the painting to the process. His Black Monoliths series remains rooted in abstraction but celebrates black innovators, leaders, thinkers, and creative legends.
Many of the artists that I highlight this month went through significant evolutions in style, process, and form. Some are mid-career, others experienced life-altering events that took their careers in entirely new directions. They are reminders that we should to occasionally shift our focus from the destination and savor the lessons we find in the journey.
For more on Whitten, https://brooklynrail.org/2017/02/art/JACK-WHITTEN-with-Jarrett-Earnest