STANLEY WHITNEY "STAY SONGS" MONOTYPE, 2001
Stanley Whitney (b.1946) is a contemporary African-American abstract painter known for his signature composition of loose grids formed by organized blocks of saturated color. Whitney holds an MFA from Yale University and has been a Professor of drawing and painting at Temple University for over three decades.
Early on as an artist, Whitney eschewed pressure as an African-American to only create art centered around race and culture. He ultimately created a unique space for himself within the 20th-century art canon by fusing his education with inspiration from diverse sources like quilting-making, Mondrian, minimalism, and Giorgio Morandi.
In 1968, at the age of 22, the artist moved to New York and pursued the Color Field, Minimalist, and Geometric Abstract artists of the era. However, it wasn't until decades later when further inspiration and years of honing his vision would birth Whitney's defining motif of grids and stacks.
While living and working in Rome in the 90's, Italian art & architecture deepened Whitney's understanding of the complex relationship between color and structure. The facade of the Coliseum, stacked funerary urns at the National Etruscan Museum, and ancient frescoes, all contributed to Whitney's signature aesthetic.
The grid motifs Whitney has created since the 90's are instantly recognizable. Each square canvas contains a stacked composition of multiple saturated color fields (blocks) delineated by horizontal stripes running across the canvas. The color blocks contain active brushwork and overlapping boundaries, subverting the straight lines typically associated with square structures.
Within this singular compositional method, Whitney demonstrates endless potential for variation and creates continuity across his oeuvre.
Color is the most essential element within Whitney's practice, ultimately dictating the structure of his work. Beginning from the top of the canvas and working his way down (while listening to Jazz), Whitney allows colors to call forth and respond to each other, much like Jazz musicians do while playing.
The result is a grid broken free from it's linear, hard-edged structure by the intuitive cadence and color of Whitney's brushstrokes.
This monotype "Stay Songs" is a paradigm example of Whitney's defining compositional motif. Bright, saturated stacked blocks of color fill a perfect square image. Bold yellows, reds, and black are juxtaposed against shades of blue and green. Colors mix or overlap each other through Whitney's playful and dynamic brushstrokes.
While grids and squares are typically associated with minimalism, geometric or hard-edged abstraction, Whitney's rich, brushy blocks of color propose a more lyrical interpretation. This unique interpretation has carved out a special place for Whitney amongst other prestigious 20th-century abstracts artists who heavily utilized squares like Joseph Albers, Piet Mondrian, and Sean Scully.
Whitney's oeuvre has gained significant international attention and acclaim over the last decade. His work has been collected by many of the most prestigious institutions including the Albright-Knox Museum (Buffalo), LACMA (LA), The Guggenheim (New York and Abu Dhabi), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa).
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Monotype on paper
Signed, titled, and dated by the artist
Very good condition.
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