Peter Whitehead had no particular agenda when in 1982 he began gluing an array of found materials into his first journal. Already making collages, paintings and sculptures at the time, he was encouraged to begin his first book by two friends, who in turn had both been inspired by the journals of American photographer Peter Beard. The journals eventually developed into a daily practice where photographs, carpet fluff, pencil shavings or stains might appear alongside packing tape, fruit labels, theater tickets or thank you notes.
Over time, using an ever-expanding assortment of ingredients, including paint, the focus shifted more to composition. In some cases the pages became source material for larger works such as paintings. During an extended period working with commercial fabric design, the pages provided a place to experiment with ideas before developing them into finished designs.
The journals are a celebration of the the mundane. They encourage us to see the extraordinary in the ordinary and the everyday. Paint and other liquid media along with scraps of written material from daily life – shopping lists, phone numbers, directions, to-do lists, official mail, letters, receipts, notes from friends, experiments with language – altogether an unlimited supply of found or discarded materials – have developed into a vocabulary that, over several years, has come to represent a picture of the artists daily life and times. They draw attention to what is often overlooked in the everyday, transforming the insignificant or trivial.
For Peter Whitehead – known also for making music and for building original instruments – the journals provide an approach to improvisation and composition using a language that translates well into the language of sound and other media. While the content may differ, the approach to working within different media can be similar.
A total of seven journals were created between 1982 and 2015, mostly in New York and San Francisco. In 2015 the first larger format journal was constructed from raw materials, partly because larger books were no longer available for sale. Some pages were created on pieces of found paper during two extensive journeys through S.E Asia, between 1989 and 1995. These pages were then mailed home in bundles along the way. Nothing was lost.
Most double page spreads measure 16 1/2” x 28.”