Object Image

Topographical Space 6

This grainy, greyscale image evokes satellite or radar imagery of landscape from above, or a flickering screen of surveillance footage. It was created during Jack Whitten’s artist residency at the Xerox Corporation in 1974 where he experimented with their printing technologies.

This residency marked a key moment in Whitten’s practice. During the 1960s he was involved with Abstract Expressionism in New York, exploring bold colour and gesture, but during the 1970s pared back his work to push boundaries around the materials and processes of painting. He sought to remove traces of the artist’s hand by ‘automating’ his painting, influenced by photo processing and screen–printing technologies. Throughout his career Whitten constructed custom tools to rake or drag pigment across paper and canvas. Here he experiments with photocopier toner, a dry pigment that responds to electrostatic charges and is set with heat. Whitten used a flat scraper pull it across the page, capturing ghostly outlines of objects he laid underneath.

Whitten was involved in civil rights demonstrations in the USA during the 1960s and outspoken about his politics, but avoided translating this literally in his art. Instead he embedded politics into material and form, focusing on the transformative potential of aesthetics to change perceptions and construct new realities.

Collection Reflection, Olivia Heron, October 2020 © MIMA

Dry pigment on paper

Where you'll find this

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art