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Robert Whitman

1935, New York (N.Y., U.S.); lives in Warwick (N.Y., U.S.)

Between 1953 and 1957, Robert Whitman completed a degree in English literature at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey (New Brunswick, N.J., U.S.), and studied art history at Columbia University (New York, N.Y., U.S.). In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he constructed sculptural environments much like those created by Allan Kaprow and George Segal. In 1960, he produced his first “theatre piece,” Small Cannon. Unlike the often-improvised “happenings” of the day, these works by Whitman were precisely defined and could therefore be performed more than once. They were presented as a series of sketches that often included the audience as participants and in which the narrative was kept to a strict minimum.

Beginning in 1964, Whitman began to create installations that linked objects (furniture, accessories) with related film clips (Window, Dining Room Table (1963), Shower (1964), Dressing Table, Bathroom Sink (1964)). Next, he began to include film projections in his own performances, such as Prune Flat (1965) and Two Holes of Water 3 (1966, as part of 9 Evenings). In November 1966, he founded Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) with engineers Billy Klüver, Fred Waldhauer and Robert Rauschenberg. In the latter half of the 1960s, Whitman explored the optical effects produced by combining convex/concave mirrors, lasers and light projections.

In 1970, he designed the Pepsi Pavilion at Expo ’70 in Osaka with the other members of E.A.T. He also conducted numerous projects involving engineers and scientists (Art and Technology, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1971), Artists and Television (1971-1972), Artists and Radio (1972). In the decades that followed, he continued his performative work, often using telecommunication technology to include a participative dimension (Ghost (2002), for example). In 2003, the Dia Foundation (New York, N.Y., U.S.) presented a retrospective exhibition of Whitman’s works.

[Documents available in the collection about Robert Whitman...] 

[Documents available in the collection by Robert Whitman...] 

Vincent Bonin © 2006 FDL