16.04.2020 #art

Gagosian Artist Spotlight

Stanley Whitney

Color dictates the structure, not the other way round

Gagosian Artist Spotlight

One Artist, One Work, One Week




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.

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. “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.”

For Artist Spotlight, Stanley Whitney features a key work from his upcoming first major exhibition with Gagosian, in Rome, where he lived and worked during the 1990s. The work will be unveiled  on Friday on the Gagosian website. In this exclusive film, Whitney speaks with Louise Neri in his New York studio about how he arrived at his unique and intuitive approach to color and space in painting.

Artwork © Stanley Whitney; video: Pushpin Films; interview: Louise Neri


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