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Stanley Whitney explores his path to abstraction.

Arts and EntertainmentStanley Whitney explores his path to abstraction.


Stanley Whitney explores his path to abstraction.

Annabel Keenan.

Feb 20, 20

The Buffalo AKG Art Museum has an installation of Stanley Whitney: How High the Moon. At the opening of his first museum retrospective, "How High the Moon," Stanley Whitney said it took him a long time to figure things out. Whitney talked to the exhibition's curator about the evolution of his career. The artist is known for his paintings that are made of saturated rectangles of colors arranged into four separate rows, each separated by a thick line. Whitney has devoted himself to painting these richly colored, loose grids repeatedly on small and large scales, with his well-known square format ranging from 12 square inches to 96 square inches. Stanley Whitney, Untitled, 2020. He took his first art class at the age of 12 and continued to draw and paint throughout high school. Whitney entered art school to avoid the draft and began to paint grave-looking portraits of people from his daily life. Whitney said she fell in love with the work of Paul Cézanne. I was trying to figure out what the painting was from other artists, like Velzquez and de Goya. He was in the Summer Six artist residency at Skidmore College, where he was taught by Robert Reed and Philip Guston. Whitney had no idea what he was doing from 1968 to 1970. He knew that he wasn't interested in taking a political stance with his work, but he didn't know what his subject matter would be. Whitney didn't join the Black Panther movement because he didn't think it was his calling. Whitney was able to move to New York through a scholarship at the studio school, but he dropped out after just a few weeks. Whitney spent the next few years immersed in the art scene while working odd jobs and painting in his free time. He said that he saw other artists like Larry Poons and Morris Louis doing it, so he gave it a try. Whitney thought he was crazy to use a mop in his painting. Whitney's work was characterized by the exploration of gesture and the spatial orientation of the background and foreground. Whitney's work is represented by his prints and works on paper over the next several years, as he got rid of paintings while he found his voice. I was thinking about space and color, but I didn't like the idea of a background. Whitney's interest in color, space, and abstraction was demonstrated in this part of the presentation. These early pieces show how drawing became a way for Whitney to work out his ideas, a lesson he taught his students during his decades of teaching. He realized he should try figuring things out in drawing because he was in debt to Pearl Paint. Stanley Whitney's photo was taken by Robert McKeever. Whitney used oil paint to create circles of color and lines that were almost calligraphic, but he stopped using acrylic in the 1980s. Whitney began to draw inspiration from the world around him as he traveled throughout the American West, as well as to Italy and Egypt. While in Italy, horizontal bands reminiscent of Classical architecture began to appear in the artist's work. It was simple and quiet and I wanted it to be different. Stanley Whitney is a work of art. The horizontal lines and grid he established in the '90s became defining characteristics, now appearing as four rows with the larger bands on the top and the smallest rows on the bottom. Whitney began to receive critical praise with this new format, as she continued to investigate color, using subtle variations of solidity and opacity from rectangle to rectangle and embracing the materiality of paint with drips and visible brushwork. He had his first solo museum show in the U.S. at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2015, and has since exhibits at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Baltimore Museum of Art. The Buffalo AKG Art Museum organized a Venice Biennale collateral exhibition entitled "Stanley Whitney: The Italian Paintings" in 2022, and he began to be represented by a blue chip powerhouse. Whitney said he didn't know what he was doing when he began the style he is now known for. I feel my way through things and I always follow the painting.

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