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Moment of Perfection Edition

Mask III: For The Children of Dunblane, Scotland, 1996. Acrylic and recycled glass on canvas. Unique. 167.6 x 312.4 cm / 66 x 123 in. © Jack Whitten Estate. Courtesy the Jack Whitten Estate and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Dan Bradica

AS we’ve mentioned earlier, it’s been tough to get back into our real-world mind set when looking at art. Too many months of only screen time and books has made us a little dull, combine that with the free-floating anxiety that is 2020, and now it’s a challenge to make the emotional connections that used to come so easily. Fortunately, the fall season has had several shows that demand complete attention to the artist’s thinking, skill, and technique; and these exhibits have pulled us back to something approaching our normal attitude.

THE latest example is at Hauser & Wirth with their new show Jack Whitten I AM THE OBJECT. Earlier this year, the gallery did a survey of six decades of Whitten’s drawing practice; a primer in the artist’s interests, evolution of technique, and suburb draftsman skills that immediately made it into our top ten list for 2020. This time the exhibit is smaller, eighteen paintings from 1990-2000, all abstract compositions. The themes range from memorial pieces to the intangible qualities of art itself, a varied selection but linked by strongly defined compositional elements as well as a sensitivity to color and texture. Whitten’s technique of using paint chips to build a layered surface, occasionally adding other materials to the canvas, creates a singular surface that ebbs and flows, catching the light in unexpected ways. The amount of time and thought that went into each work is astonishing but the truly outstanding moment of the show is when you realize that the balance of color, shape, and size never falls apart no matter how close or far away you stand. It’s a chance to experience perfection in a most imperfect world.