Stanley Whitney (1946, Philadelphia, US).
Lives and works in New York and Parma, Italy.
A longstanding and beloved icon of contemporary painting in New York, Stanley Whitney has been exploring the formal possibilities of color within ever-shifting grids of multihued blocks and all-over fields of gestural marks and passages. While living in Rome in the 1990s, he consolidated a process-based painterly approach which he has now sustained and developed over the course of three decades.
His iconic solid grids emulate stable structures that remain rhythmic, spontaneous, and erratic in nature. Rather than a proscriptive structure, the grid formation is a liberating compositional tool that enables improvisation through colour, texture, and chromatic intensity. Whitney unsystematically executes each square, letting himself be surprised by every step of the process, spontaneously juxtaposing warm and cool, loud and soft, creating a work of arresting chromatic complexity.
“I don’t have any color theory. The color is magic, and I want the work to be magic.”
A hard-fought and well-earned revelation, Whitney’s new approach to painting arrived after many years of experimentation. Varying approaches to both process and application were informed by an internal pressure to synthesize the manifold influences of art history. His adherence to a predetermined compositional structure facilitates the lyrical spontaneity of his approach, introducing visual rhythms and chromatic harmonies that resonate with the improvisational energy and call-and-response of jazz. Indeed, experimental jazz is a constant accompaniment for him as he paints.
“Music was always there for me as a kind of rhythm—getting in rhythm, having rhythm.”
Stanley Whitney serves as a professor emeritus of painting and drawing at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University in Philadelphia.
In 2022, the artist’s solo exhibition ‘The Italian Paintings’ at Palazzo Tiepolo Passi in Venice was represented alongside the 59th Venice Biennale.
Selected public collections:
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA
Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, USA
The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, UAE
The Long Museum, Shanghai, China
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA
Magazzino d’Arte Moderna, Rome, Italy
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, USA
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, USA
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada
The Helga de Alvear Foundation, Cáceres, Spain