Jack Whitten A’64 was born in 1939 in Bessemer, Alabama. He grew up in the segregated American South and suffered the effects of ingrained racism. He attended college at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and also attended the Tuskeegee Institute for two years. In 1960, he took a bus to New York City. He began his studies at The Cooper Year that year, and graduated in 1964. He lived the remainder of his life in New York City.
Jack Whitten A’64 was a leading, recognized figure in contemporary art, and a beloved Cooper Union Art professor for 25 years. He began teaching at The Cooper Union as a Visiting Artist in 1971. He became an assistant professor in 1977 and an Associate Professor in 1981. He became a full professor in 1991 and continued to teach at The Cooper Union until 1997. The course that he taught most often was Advanced Painting.
He worked primarily in abstract painting and in sculpture.
In 2014, the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, California, hosted a major retrospective exhibition which later traveled to the Wexner Center for the Arts and the Walker Art Center. A 40-work survey of his sculptures will open in April 2018 at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and will later travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mr. Whitten passed away on January 20, 2018. He was 78.
A 40-work survey of his sculptures will open in April 2018 at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and will later travel to the Met Breuer.
President Barack Obama honored him with the National Medal of the Arts in 2015. This medal was created by the United States Congress in 1984 and is considered to be the among the most prestigious awards granted to an individual in the arts.
Jack Whitten passed away on January 20, 2018.