Jack Whitten: Interview

Jack Whitten, The Third Portal, 2016, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 48 x 48 inches (© Jack Whitten, courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth)
Jack Whitten, The Third Portal, 2016, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 48 x 48 inches (© Jack Whitten, courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth)

Jarrett Earnest interviews painter Jack Whitten whose work is on view at Hauser & Wirth, New York through April 8, 2017.

Whitten comments: "Without a doubt, the sculpture has had more influence on my painting than anything else. The concept of light is different in a sculptor’s mind than it is in a painter’s. When you’re confronted with this massive log to carve, something else is going on mentally than when you’re in front of a canvas. In carving you’re revealing the light in reaction to external light. That has creeped over into the painting, as I was saying before, about tesserae. The tessera is a three dimensional unit of acrylic paint and I have found that I can direct the light with it. In sculpture I carve light. I chisel light. I grind light. I sand light. I laminate light. Well, by god, man—that is what I’m doing in painting! Through sculpture I have refactored my whole way and approach to painting. Refactoring is a process of finding another solution; if you find out that the original solution is not working for you, you have to discover another one. This is why I don’t use the word “to paint” anymore, I use the word 'to make.'"