How Two offbeat artists made New York their own - Joyce Pensato and Stanley Whitney in Interview Magazine
17 September 2017Stanley Whitney likes to sing at the top of his lungs—an unsurprising fact, perhaps, for those familiar with his work. Music (in particular jazz) seems to not only inspire, but also emanate from Whitney’s paintings: shapes swim, colors swarm, and lines tremble in improvised harmony. Known for freehand geometry, irregular grids, and fierce hues that flitter on canvas, the 70-year-old abstractionist spent over four decades delving into color as the subject of his work.
Born in Philadelphia, Whitney was the only member of his family in the arts (“No one knows what happened,” he explains. “I fell on my head—I don’t know.”). Whitney drew on walls, in elementary school, for local newspapers; he attended a small art school in his neighborhood at 10, earned a B.F.A from Kansas City Art Institute, an M.F.A. from Yale, and moved to New York in the late 1960’s.
Around that time, Brooklyn-native painter and friend Joyce Pensato was studying at the New York Studio School (which Whitney also briefly attended). “You have the circles and squares,” she said to Whitney. “And I draw the ducks and mice.”
Pensato’s dripping enamel paintings that feature familiar yet eerie faces—Mickey Mouse, Batman, Donald Duck—may seem antithetical to Whitney’s solid blocks of color. The pair’s careers, however, have shared somewhat similar trajectories. Now, Whitney’s paintings have been assembled for Stanley Whitney: Drawings, at New York’s Lisson Gallery. Pensato, in her signature outsized wraparounds, is set to join a group exhibition at ICA Miami. Both have come a long way from sleeping on hardwood floors…
Click through to read a conversation between Joyce Pensato and Stanley Whitney in Interview Magazine.
Photography: Alexander Rotondo