Menu

Stanley Whitney

Stanley Whitney, Stay Song 73, 2020 Oil on linen, 40 × 40 inches (101.6 × 101.6 cm)© Stanley Whitney. Photo: Rob McKeever

Stanley Whitney, Stay Song 73, 2020

Oil on linen, 40 × 40 inches (101.6 × 101.6 cm)
© Stanley Whitney. Photo: Rob McKeever

Stanley Whitney, In Memory of Tomorrow, 2020 Oil on linen, 96 × 96 inches (243.8 × 243.8 cm)© Stanley Whitney. Photo: Rob McKeever

Stanley Whitney, In Memory of Tomorrow, 2020

Oil on linen, 96 × 96 inches (243.8 × 243.8 cm)
© Stanley Whitney. Photo: Rob McKeever

Stanley Whitney, How to Speak to Trees, 2019 Oil on linen, 96 × 96 inches (243.8 × 243.8 cm)© Stanley Whitney. Photo: Rob McKeever

Stanley Whitney, How to Speak to Trees, 2019

Oil on linen, 96 × 96 inches (243.8 × 243.8 cm)
© Stanley Whitney. Photo: Rob McKeever

Stanley Whitney, Stay Song 69, 2020 Oil on linen, 40 × 40 inches (101.6 × 101.6 cm)© Stanley Whitney. Photo: Rob McKeever

Stanley Whitney, Stay Song 69, 2020

Oil on linen, 40 × 40 inches (101.6 × 101.6 cm)
© Stanley Whitney. Photo: Rob McKeever

Stanley Whitney, Roma 21, 2020 Oil on linen, 24 × 24 inches (61 × 61 cm)© Stanley Whitney. Photo: Rob McKeever

Stanley Whitney, Roma 21, 2020

Oil on linen, 24 × 24 inches (61 × 61 cm)
© Stanley Whitney. Photo: Rob McKeever

Stanley Whitney, page from the artist’s sketchbook, 1994 Graphite on paper© Stanley Whitney

Stanley Whitney, page from the artist’s sketchbook, 1994

Graphite on paper
© Stanley Whitney

About

I follow the paintings wherever they take me. If the painting goes out the door, I follow it out the door; if it goes out the window, I follow it out the window.
—Stanley Whitney

“I start at the top and work down,” explains Stanley Whitney. “That gets into call-and-response. One color calls forth another. Color dictates the structure, not the other way round.” Whitney’s vibrant abstract paintings unlock the linear structure of the grid, imbuing it with new and unexpected cadences of color, rhythm, and space. Deriving inspiration from sources as diverse as Piet Mondrian, Giorgio Morandi, and American quilt-making, Whitney composes with blocks and bars that articulate a chromatic call-and-response in each canvas. He has spent many years experimenting with the seemingly limitless potential of a single compositional method, loosely dividing square canvases into multiple registers. The thinly applied oil paint retains his active brushwork and allows for a degree of transparency and tension at the overlapping borders between each rectilinear parcel of vivid color. In varying canvas sizes, he explores the shifting effects of his freehand geometries at both intimate and grand scales as he deftly lays down successive blocks of paint, heeding the call of each color. Experimental jazz—Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman—is Whitney’s soundtrack, its defining improvisational method yielding ever new energies to his process of painting.

Whitney was born in Philadelphia in 1946 and studied at the Kansas City Art Institute before moving to New York City in 1968. He graduated with an MFA from Yale School of Art in 1972, but found himself at odds with the politically and theoretically oriented contemporary scene of the 1970s and 1980s, confronting the expectation that an African American artist should contend directly with themes of racial and cultural identity. Whitney was more interested in honing an abstract visual language, his early works incorporating patches of color surrounded by areas of empty space. At this stage in his career he was also focused on the power of gesture and immersed in the daily practice of drawing.

Although Whitney has been deeply invested in chromatic experimentation throughout his career, he consolidated his distinctive approach during a period spent living and working in Rome in the 1990s, shifting his compositions from untethered amorphous forms to the denser stacked arrangements that characterize his mature style. It was Roman art and architecture—including the imposing façades of the Colosseum and the Palazzo Farnese and the stacked shelves of funerary urns on display at the Museo Nazionale Etrusco—that informed his nuanced understanding of the relationship between color and geometry. Italy remains a central and enduring source of inspiration for Whitney, who spends his summers painting at his studio near Parma.

Read more

Fairs, Events & Announcements

Sarah Sze, Afterimage, Silver, 2018 © Sarah Sze

Support

Artists for Biden

October 2–8, 2020

Artists for Biden is an online-only sale of works by leading contemporary artists to support the Biden Victory Fund—a joint fundraising committee authorized by Biden for President, the Democratic National Committee, and forty-seven state Democratic parties. All proceeds from the sale will provide resources needed to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and support other Democratic candidates across the country in the lead up to Election Day. Work by Cecily Brown, Michael Heizer, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Brice Marden, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman, Sarah Sze, Stanley Whitney, and Christopher Wool will be available. To register for early access on October 1, visit secure.joebiden.com.

Sarah Sze, Afterimage, Silver, 2018 © Sarah Sze

Stanley Whitney, Bertacca 2, 2019 © Stanley Whitney. Photo: Giorgio Benni

Collaboration

Gagosian Rome
& La Fondazione

June 3–September 2020
Rome

As a preview to Stanley Whitney’s upcoming exhibition at Gagosian Rome later this year, the gallery is presenting the Bertacca paintings, produced in his studio near Parma, Italy. Whitney’s experiences in Italy, where he lived during the 1990s and where he maintains a working studio, remain a constant source of enrichment for his art. As a complementary project, each week La Fondazione is presenting the work of a contemporary Italian artist born in the 1980s or 1990s, visible to passersby through the building’s glass doors, daily from 6pm to 11am.

Download the full press release in English (PDF) or Italian (PDF)

Stanley Whitney, Bertacca 2, 2019 © Stanley Whitney. Photo: Giorgio Benni

Photo: EFE/Alamy

Artist Spotlight

Stanley Whitney

April 15–21, 2020

Stanley Whitney has been deeply invested in chromatic experimentation throughout his career, but it was the experience of Italian art and architecture, both ancient and modern, that informed his unique understanding of the nuanced relationship between color and geometry. His highly dynamic abstract paintings unlock the grid, imbuing it with new and unexpected cadences of color, rhythm, and space. Deriving inspiration from sources as diverse as Sandro Botticelli and Piet Mondrian, free jazz and American quilt-making, Whitney composes in varying scales with vibrant blocks and bars that articulate a chromatic call-and-response within each canvas.

Photo: EFE/Alamy

See all News for Stanley Whitney

Museum Exhibitions

Stanley Whitney, Off Square, 2016, Moderna Museet, Stockholm © Stanley Whitney

Closed

Stanley Whitney in
Blue Is the Color of Your Eyes: On Materiality and Abstraction in the Moderna Museet Collection

February 2, 2019–March 1, 2020
Moderna Museet, Malmö, Sweden
www.modernamuseet.se

Work by Stanley Whitney was included in Blue Is the Color of Your Eyes, where works by Louise Bourgeois were presented alongside key paintings and sculptures from the 1940s to the present by international artists in the Moderna Museet’s collection. Guiding the viewer through an examination of issues of materiality and abstraction, the exhibition highlighted a bodily approach to the creative process as well as social issues. 

Stanley Whitney, Off Square, 2016, Moderna Museet, Stockholm © Stanley Whitney

Installation view, Documenta 14, Documenta Halle, Kassel, Germany, June 10–September 17, 2017. Artwork © Stanley Whitney

Closed

Documenta 14

April 8–September 17, 2017
Various locations in Kassel, Germany, and Athens
www.documenta14.de

Sixteen paintings by Stanley Whitney were on display in Kassel, Germany, and in Athens as part of the fourteenth edition of Documenta, which takes place every five years. Documenta 14 included the presentation of works by more than 160 international artists, as well as concerts, screenings, readings, performances, and discussions.

Installation view, Documenta 14, Documenta Halle, Kassel, Germany, June 10–September 17, 2017. Artwork © Stanley Whitney

Stanley Whitney, SunRa 2016, 2016 © Stanley Whitney

Closed

Focus
Stanley Whitney

January 21–April 2, 2017
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas
www.themodern.org

This exhibition explored Stanley Whitney’s investigations into the intricate possibilities of color and form in the realm of abstract painting. Since the mid-1970s, Whitney has been known for his multicolored, irregular grids on square canvases. Taking the essentialist grid of Minimalism as his cue, his configurations are loose, uneven geometric lattices comprised of vibrant stacked color blocks that vary in hue, shape, and the handling of the paint.

Stanley Whitney, SunRa 2016, 2016 © Stanley Whitney

Installation view, Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, July 16–October 25, 2015. Artwork © Stanley Whitney

Closed

Stanley Whitney
Dance the Orange

July 16–October 25, 2015
Studio Museum in Harlem, New York
studiomuseum.org

Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange featured paintings and drawings created between 2008 and 2015. Following time spent in Italy and Egypt in the 1990s, Whitney developed the distinctive approach to color and space for which he is now known. Whitney’s paintings are rhythmic and lyrical, made according to a dynamic fusion of preordained structure and improvisation, with vibrant, irregular lozenges of color stacked loosely in square formats. The drawings, with their spontaneous, energetic lines, give insight into the parallel importance of this more intimate activity to his art practice.

Installation view, Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, July 16–October 25, 2015. Artwork © Stanley Whitney