'Stanley Whitney: TwentyTwenty' review in The Brooklyn Rail
9 December 2021
Stanley Whitney’s recent exhibit of new paintings presents his lifelong exploration of an endless oasis of color. We can both look and listen as the variations across each painting reveal rows of bold color rectangles or squares and lines compressing together to form abstract color compositions in this architectural structure unique to his vision. Whitney’s sensitivity to pure colors, their intensity, and their complexity of undertones is archived through thin applications and the simplicity of his brushwork. The installation of 19 new works is well-thought-out as visitors are greeted by two medium-scaled canvases before entering the main gallery, where each of the five walls holds a single large-scale painting. The space between each allows the paintings to breathe and stand on their own. Yet, as a collective they transport us into Whitney’s intuitive and visceral color rhythms, akin to different musical improvisations resonating in the gallery. The last room in the back includes two gouaches on paper, four smaller paintings, and a wall of four tiny drawings in crayon, opposite a single graphite and watercolor drawing with the written alliteration “Monk” and “Munch.”
In the main gallery, Orange Conversation (2021) recalls Whitney’s 2015 exhibit Dance the Orange at the Studio Museum in Harlem, his first museum solo show in New York (both titles are inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem about the taste of an orange.) In this painting, dark and light blues are in dialogue with the complementary multitudes of warm hues found in oranges for the chromatic of yellow and red. The waterfall moments of blue upon blue in the top right corner express depth and serenity while the bleed of the horizontal orange-red line pollinating the Indian yellow rectangle in the lower left corner foretells an orange metamorphosis. Though we are confronted with color, Whitney’s retinal color relationships extend to our other senses in taste and sound, beyond the visual. The green of a citrus tree accentuates the painting in different areas with lime green peeking through the brushwork of a blue-sky rectangle, as if a light is shining through a stained-glass window.
Read the full review by Amanda Millet-Sorsa in The Brooklyn Rail here.
Stanley Whitney: TwentyTwenty is on view at Lisson New York through 18 December.