Jack Whitten: Interview

Jack Whitten, Chinese Sincerity, 1974, acrylic on canvas (courtesy of Alexander
Jack Whitten, Chinese Sincerity, 1974, acrylic on canvas (courtesy of Alexander Gray and Associates)

Tyler Green talks to painter Jack Whitten on the occasion of the exhibition Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting, at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, on view through January 4, 2015.

Whitten comments: "It was de Kooning that I became really attached to in terms of gesture, to the point that, by the end of the 60s I approached the canvas and my hand had become automatic... I had remove Bill de Kooning from my hand... how do you get around a giant like Bill de Kooning? ... I came up with the idea that as long as I'm using my hand we're dealing with relational painting... one stroke answers another, answers another... so my thinking was that if I could do something that got rid of the relational thinking maybe I could do something. So, I conceived of the canvas as one gesture - the whole picture plane operating as one gesture... The studio became a laboratory. I put the brush down.. and I started experimentation with a part of painting that I did not know enough about... materiality."