Thu 30 Mar 2023 to Sat 13 May 2023
Artist: Stanley Whitney
The color makes the structure.
Gagosian presents There Will Be Song, an exhibition of new paintings by Stanley Whitney. This is the gallery’s first exhibition of paintings by Whitney since announcing its representation of the artist.
Vibrant and lyrical, Whitney’s paintings emerge from his ongoing exploration of color and composition. Each work is composed of rectilinear, predominantly monochrome blocks of oil color in three or four registers demarcated by horizontal bands. Working extemporaneously within this compositional structure, the artist selects each successive tone in relation to those already applied. The paintings’ brushwork reveals the active trace of the artist’s hand through variations in direction of application and opacity of pigment.
Pursuing abstraction since the mid-1970s, Whitney consolidated a process-based approach while living in Rome in the 1990s. In Italy, he was captivated by ancient Roman murals and the transformative effect of light on the façades of historic buildings such as the Colosseum, prompting a new understanding of color and geometry. Responding as well to his study of artists such as Piet Mondrian, Giorgio Morandi, and Mark Rothko, and to American quiltmakers, he has developed this body of work over the course of three decades.
The exhibition in London shares a title with its biggest painting, which measures 8 by 10 feet. This is the largest format in which Whitney works, and its proportions break with the square format he favors elsewhere. The discipline and structure of Whitney’s method allow vivid improvisatory passages to emerge. They take the form of “call-and-response” compositions that evoke syncopated polyrhythms and unexpected chromatic harmonies. Whitney’s sonorous use of color registers beyond the visual, evoking a synesthetic merging of the senses.
The juxtaposition of warm and cool hues in Bridge (2022) conveys a high-key energy very different from the darker tones of By the Waters of Manhattan (2022). Whitney uses the same colors to define the rectilinear and lateral elements in Marina’s Garden (2022) and Walking and Wondering 2 (2022), extending them across the canvases and introducing a sense of fluidity to otherwise bounded forms. The varied application and introduction of horizontal brushstrokes aligned with selected contours throughout The Wild West (2022) speak to boundaries and openness, and to the versality of Whitney’s practice.
Gagosian will publish a fully illustrated catalogue documenting the exhibition.
Stanley Whitney: Dance with Me Henri, an exhibition highlighting the stained-glass windows Whitney was commissioned to create for the Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies at the Baltimore Museum of Art, is on view there through April 23, 2023. A major retrospective surveying his career will open in February 2024 at the future Buffalo AKG Art Museum, New York (formerly the Albright-Knox Art Gallery).