Stanley Whitney in his studio, Ridgewood, Queens, 2017. | Photo by Katherine McMahon

 

THE FIRST RETROSPECTIVE of Stanley Whitney opens at the Buffalo AKG Art Museum on Feb. 9, 2024. “Stanley Whitney: How High the Moon” will chart the artist’s five-decade career, enduring investigation of color, and evolving approach to abstraction. Following the presentation in Buffalo, N.Y. the exhibition travels to Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minn., and the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston.

Whitney works within a grid structure exploring the expansive possibilities of color in terms of rhythm, cadence, and space. Composed with stacked blocks and bars, his abstract paintings call to mind the rectilinear forms of Piet Mondrian and American quilt patterns.

“Stanley Whitney’s lifelong exploration of color has created an oeuvre of stunning inventiveness and rigor that evokes deep human emotion, beauty, and hope,” said Cathleen Chaffee, chief curator at Buffalo AKG. “It has been one of the great honors of my career to work with Whitney on this, his long-overdue first retrospective. How High the Moon constitutes a historic moment not just for Whitney but also for the Buffalo AKG and the museums that will present the exhibition subsequently.”

 


STANLEY WHITNEY (American, born 1946), “Endless Time,” 2017 (oil on canvas, 96 x 96 inches / 243.8 x 243.8 cm). | Collection Buffalo AKG Art Museum. Bequest of Arthur B. Michael, by exchange, 2017 (2017:21). Photo by Tom Loonan and Brenda Bieger, Buffalo AKG Art Museum. Artwork © Stanley Whitney

 

The retrospective will present major paintings produced from 1972 to 2023; small improvisatory paintings; drawings and prints; and a selection of sketchbooks dating from 1987 to 2021, that offer insights into the artist’s writing and engagement with political and social concerns. Highlights include “I will say it again…NO to Prison Life” (2020), from a series of works on paper the artist made to bring attention to mass incarceration and disproportionately high incarceration rates for African Americans. From the Buffalo AKG collection, “Endless Time” (2017) is among the powerful grid paintings featured in the show.

Whitney began making the grid paintings for which he is best known two decades ago. The vibrant works are composed of a series of stacked blocks on square canvases. Working with a bold palette, he starts at the top and works his way down. Whitney has said color dictates the structure. It’s an improvisational process with each color in turn determining the next. The ordered spontaneity is akin to the call-and-response of jazz, one of his many artistic influences. In addition to music, poetry, art history, architecture, and quilt design also inform the Whitney’s work.

“Stanley Whitney’s lifelong exploration of color has created an oeuvre of stunning inventiveness and rigor that evokes deep human emotion, beauty, and hope.” — Buffalo AKG Chief Curator Cathleen Chaffee

 


Unchanged: STANLEY WHITNEY (American, born 1946), “By the Love of Those Unloved,” 1994 (oil on linen, diptych: 78 3/4 x 102 1/2 inches / 200 x 260.4 cm, overall). | Private Collection. Photo: Lisson Gallery, Courtesy of Stanley Whitney Studio. Artwork © Stanley Whitney

 

BORN IN PHILADELPHIA, Whitney studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and earned an MFA from Yale School of Art in 1972. He has been expressing himself through abstraction since the mid-1970s. From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, Whitney traveled to the American West, Italy, and Egypt. The buildings and architecture he encountered in the diverse environments left an impression. Living and working in Rome in the 1990s, the artist pushed his compositions into a new structured realm, introducing a framework grounded in horizontal lines that persists in his latest work.

Whitney, who splits his time between Bridgehampton, N.Y., and Parma, Italy, is a Professor Emeritus of Painting and Drawing at Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University. He joined Gagosian in June 2022, the largest gallery in the world in terms of its international footprint with a score of locations in the United States, Europe, and Asia. “Stanley Whitney: There Will Be Song” was on view earlier this year at Gagosian Grosvenor Hill, London. The forthcoming museum retrospective is a long overdue examination, showcasing Whitney’s early breakthroughs alongside his critically recognized mature paintings.

“To have my work shown as the first large-scale special exhibition in the new Buffalo AKG Art Museum is a great honor,” said Stanley Whitney. “The Buffalo AKG’s painting collection is extraordinary, and it’s fabulous to have my retrospective in a museum that has supported and exhibited many of the artists who have been important to my development as a painter. I’m deeply grateful to Cathleen Chaffee and to the Buffalo AKG for their appreciation and understanding of my practice, and for the time and care they put into this exhibition. I’m excited to see the full span of my work for the first time in the stunning new Gundlach Building.” CT

 

FIND MORE The title of the retrospective is drawn from, “How High the Moon” (1940), a jazz standard “that has conveyed enchantment, longing, and, in some interpretations, has reached for the sublime,” according to the exhibition description. Composed by Nancy Hamilton and Morgan Lewis, the song was later performed by Ella Fitzgerald

FIND MORE Recently on view at the Baltimore Museum of Art, “Stanley Whitney: Dance with Me Henri” explored the artist’s career-long engagement with Henri Matisse

 

FIND MORE about Stanley Whitney on Instagram

READ MORE about Stanley Whitney in a recent profile by Chloë Ashby in The Guardian and at Bomb Magazine where artist Alteronce Gumby conducted an oral history interview with Whitney in 2015

 


STANLEY WHITNEY (American, born 1946), Untitled, 1978 (ink on paper, 23 x 35 inches / 58.4 x 88.9 cm). | Private Collection. Photo Courtesy Stanley Whitney Studio. Artwork © Stanley Whitney

 


STANLEY WHITNEY (American, born 1946), Untitled, 1979 (acrylic on canvas, 48 x 70 inches / 121.9 x 177.8 cm). | Private Collection. Photo by Robert McKeever, Courtesy Stanley Whitney Studio. Artwork © Stanley Whitney

 


STANLEY WHITNEY (American, born 1946), Untitled, 1983 (monotype on BFK Rives paper, 30 1/4 x 44 3/4 inches (76.8 x 113.7 cm). Private Collection. Photo by Robert McKeever, Courtesy of Stanley Whitney Studio. Artwork © Stanley Whitney

 


STANLEY WHITNEY (American, born 1946), Untitled, 1991 (crayon on paper, 9 x 12 1/2 inches / 22.9 x 31.8 cm). | Private Collection. Photo by Robert McKeever, Courtesy Stanley Whitney Studio. Artwork © Stanley Whitney

 


STANLEY WHITNEY (American, born 1946), “Undestructable Hymn,” 2001 (oil on linen. 54 x 60 inches / 137.2 x 152.4 cm). | Private Collection. Artwork © Stanley Whitney

 


STANLEY WHITNEY (American, born 1946), “James Brown Sacrifices to Apollo,” 2008 (oil on linen. 72 x 72 inches / 182.9 x 182.9 cm). | Private Collection. Photo: Lisson Gallery, Courtesy of Stanley Whitney Studio. Artwork © Stanley Whitney

 


STANLEY WHITNEY (American, born 1946), Untitled, 2017 (crayon on rice paper, 22 3/4 x 26 inches / 57.8 x 66 cm). | Private Collection. Photo by Robert McKeever, Courtesy of Stanley Whitney Studio. Artwork © Stanley Whitney

 


STANLEY WHITNEY (American, born 1946), Untitled, 2018 (graphite on paper, 22 x 30 1/2 inches / 55.9 x 77.5 cm). | Private Collection. Photo by Robert McKeever, Courtesy of Stanley Whitney Studio. Artwork © Stanley Whitney

 


STANLEY WHITNEY (American, born 1946), “Aretha,” 2018 (oil on linen. 72 x 72 inches / 182.9 x 182.9 cm). | Private Collection. Photo: Lisson Gallery, Courtesy of Stanley Whitney Studio. Artwork © Stanley Whitney

 


STANLEY WHITNEY (American, born 1946), Untitled, 2020 (watercolor on Lessebo paper, 19 1/2 x 24 5/8 inches / 49.5 x 62.6 cm). | Private Collection. Photo by Robert McKeever, Courtesy of Stanley Whitney Studio. Artwork © Stanley Whitney

 


STANLEY WHITNEY (American, born 1946), “I will say it again…NO to Prison Life,” 2020 (watercolor and graphite on paper. 10 1/4 x 10 1/4 inches (26 x 26 cm). | Private Collection. Photo by Robert McKeever, Courtesy of Stanley Whitney Studio. Artwork © Stanley Whitney

 

BOOKSHELF
Buffalo AKG Art Museum published “Stanley Whitney: The Italian Paintings” last year. “Stanley Whitney (Contemporary Painters Series)” was published in 2020. Also consider “Stanley Whitney” and “Stanley Whitney: Sketchbook,” both from Lisson Gallery, and “Stanley Whitney,” published by Karma gallery. “Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange” documents the artist’s pivotal Studio Museum in Harlem exhibition, curated by Haynes. The 2015 show was Whitney’s first and only solo museum exhibition in New York City. Contributors to the catalog include Haynes, Robert Storr, Lowery Stokes Simms, and Thelma Golden, who authored the foreword.

 

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