Black Monolith, II: Homage To Ralph Ellison The Invisible Man

This is Jack Whitten’s tribute piece to the author of the novel “Invisible Man,” Ralph W. Ellison. The artist had a deep connection to the book because he identified with the trials and tribulations of the protagonist. The main character was a black male who moved to New York City from the South in hopes of finding a better life, just like Whitten. The painting is composed of tesserae made from acrylic paint mixed with dirt and debris. The title of the piece reflects this of Ellison’s work and the materials used to create the painting are eclectic. The debris that include acrylic, molasses, copper, salt, coal, ash , chocolate, onions, herbs, rust, eggshell, and a razor blade on canvas are meant to represent the poor conditions that the “Invisible Man” lived with in New York City. The conditions were poor both literally, because his apartment was a small, filthy basement, and symbolically, because of the racism and hatred that he encountered. The creams, sky blues, and light greens that surround the dark middle figure are representational of light and illumination, which Whitten considered to be painters’ tools. If you were to make a tribute art piece to someone, who would it be? Why?