Robert Whitman was born in New York City in 1935. He received a B.A. in English literature from Rutgers University in 1957 and studied art history at Columbia University in 1958. He began in the late 1950s to present performances, including the pioneering works American Moon (1960) and Prune Flat (1965), as well as to exhibit his multimedia work in some of New York’s more influential venues for showing new work, such as the Hansa, Reuben, Martha Jackson, and Sidney Janis galleries.
In 1966, Whitman co-founded, with engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhaver and artist Robert Rauschenberg, Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), a foundation that provided artists with access to technology through collaborations with engineers and scientists. His one-person exhibitions have been presented at such venues as the Jewish Museum, New York (1968), the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1968), the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1973), and PaceWildenstein Gallery, New York (1995, 1997, 2004, and 2007). He has presented theater works in various European venues, including the Moderna Museet, Stockholm (1987 and 1989) the Centre Pompidou, Paris (2001 and 2002), and the New Media Festival in Leeds, England (2004).
Dia organized a retrospective of his theater works in 1976, and, in 2003, presented “Playback,” an exhibition bringing together a selection of key works from the early 1960s to late 1970s spanning various media, including presentations of Light Touch (1976) and Prune Flat. In 2005, Whitman launched Local Report, five live performances held on successive weekends at five locations around New York City in which participants used video cell phones to create and send short videos and sound reports from their areas, the final playback resulting in a multi-screen video and sound installation. He revived his historic work American Moon as part of the exhibition “New Realisms: 1957–1962” at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, in 2010. Whitman is represented by The Pace Gallery.