In the 1980s, Jack Whitten invented the unique collage process that has become his trademark. To realize "paint as collage," as he calls it, the artist mixes acrylic medium gels, varnishes, and binders with powder pigment to produce small pieces of dried-acrylic paint that are then layered, mosaic-like, onto the canvas. By far Whitten’s largest work to date, Atopolis: For Édouard Glissant (2014) consists of eight 62-inch square panels bolted together to construct a 10-by-20-foot, elaborately textured surface. Atopolis, Greek for "without place," is a reference to the ideas of the Martiniquais philosopher and poet Édouard Glissant, who died in 2011. "It is a powerful concept for members of the African diaspora," Whitten notes. "Black identity has been linked to our not having a ‘sense of place.’ This ‘sense of place’ for us had to be created through hard work involving all of our faculties of being."
Gallery label from 2017