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CONTEMPORARY PAINTERS : Stanley Whitney

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Introducing the upcoming Contemporary Painters Monograph on STANLEY WHITNEY by Matthew Jeffrey Abrams.


Pages from Stanley Whitney - Yves Klein/Stanley Whitney: This Array of Colors,
Installation view, Galleria Cayon, Madrid 2019. 
 
 

Since the mid-1970s, American painter Stanley Whitney has been exploring the formal possibilities of colour within grids of multi-coloured blocks. Matthew Jeffrey Abrams's thoughtful book, the first full monograph on the artist, highlights Whitney's unique and sophisticated understanding of line and colour and his commitment to abstract painting over four decades of consistent practice. Abrams brings together Whitney's personal and professional narratives to weave a chronological analysis of the work and the artist's wider cultural contribution.

Born in Philadelphia in 1946, Whitney moved to New York in 1968, and under the guidance of Philip Guston he began to experiment with abstraction, drawn to the basic formal qualities of Abstract Expressionism, the pure chroma of the Color Field movement, and the minimalist approach of such artists as Donald Judd. Steadfastly pursuing abstraction at a time when critical interest was focussed on figurative art and photography, Whitney has not received the critical recognition due to him until late in his career. This book affirms his outstanding achievement.

Below you can read Barry Schwabsky's foreword to this important volume, as well as a short extract from Matthew Jeffrey Abrams' Epilogue...

"Matthew Jeffrey Abrams does something in this book that’s harder than it sounds: he talks about Stanley Whitney’s paintings in the only way they can be talked about – by way of attentive and prolonged looking.

"A while back I noticed on Instagram that when Whitney posted some shots of work by his wife and fellow painter Marina Adams, their colleague Katharine Bradford asked, ‘Do you guys have color for breakfast?’ – to which Whitney replied, ‘Lunch too.’ No kidding. Whitney is one of the premier colorists of contemporary painting. But what escapes words more obstinately than color? Especially color as Whitney sees it: always lively, mobile, relational. Yet from the very first page, when Abrams begins to describe Whitney’s 2017 canvas Night Cafe, you know you’re in the hands of a writer who is unfazed by the nuances and vicissitudes of hue, calling to our attention the work’s ‘feverish hues, like that chunky block of salted-butter yellow, which, as if melting in the heat, has pooled into the register below.’ But not everything in the painting is so fired up, as Abrams knows; he sees as well how ‘a dark cozy tangerine pulses in the upper right, while that grayish glacier blue, so cool and desaturated, helps chill these molten tones.’ 

"But if the story of these paintings is necessarily that of an ever-deepening exploration of the magic that can be conjured out of nothing more than colors juxtaposed on a plane, the story of their painter is something else, and Abrams tells it with equal sensitivity: that of a patient and determined effort that took a long time to come into focus. Born in 1946 just outside Philadelphia, Whitney studied art from an early age, and always knew it was his calling. He made his way through a number of art schools, including the New York Studio School, where Philip Guston was a mentor, and finally Yale University. But afterward, he has said, ‘soon I came to understand that I had no place anywhere’. Yet he persisted, even through years of feeling quite lost, and he made a place for himself, built it out of color, block by block, and has kept on expanding it – an expansion like that of the universe itself. Finding, as he says, ‘space in color, rather than color in space’, he has become one of today’s most renowned painters."

-- Barry Schwabsky, Foreword

 

Pages from Stanley Whitney - Stanley Whitney: Left to Right,
Installation view, Team Gallery, New York 2012.
 
 

"Even though Whitney’s more recent work has sharpened its use of language, he continues to retain a fluid, light-handed touch. This is because Whitney, like [Langston] Hughes before him, understands that the political act need not be something loud and contrary; it could just as easily be, more simply and perhaps even more radically, a laying claim to the most central and beloved themes in Western culture – issues and philosophical principles that might include a class politics or an identity politics, but also range far beyond them. It is to demand to be part of that canon on one’s own terms. And so, in his own quiet way, Whitney is also teaching here – mentoring, as he did at Tyler for more than three decades. Whitney’s abstract paintings grant permission to every young artist, and especially every young artist of color. He verifies their inalienable right to an unfettered artistic freedom. ‘I think my paintings are very political,’ he told the New York Times in 2018. ‘People are surprised by who makes them and where they come from. They raise a lot of questions. That opens up a lot of doors. “If he can do that, I can do this.” And that’s how I’m political.’"

-- extract from Matthew Jeffrey Abrams' text, taken from the book's Epilogue.


Pages from Stanley Whitney - Stanley Whitney, Drawings
Installation view, Lisson Gallery, New York, 8 September - 21 October 2017.

 

 

Our Contemporary Painters monograph on Stanley Whitney by Matthew Jeffrey Abrams will be released on 3rd September (UK & Europe) and is available to order HERE.

 

Hardcover • 144 Pages • Size: 280 × 240 mm
Includes 100 colour illustrations
ISBN: 9781848222519 • Publication: September 03, 2020
Series: Contemporary Painters Series

 

 
 
 

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