Radical Times, Installation view, 2016 © Stanley Whitney, co. of Lisson Gallery, London.


It has been a wonderful exhibitionStanley Whitney: Radical Times” at the Lisson Gallery, London.

With Radical Times, the painter Stanley Whitney was at its first exhibition in London, promoted by the Lisson Gallery.

Whitney exhibited a series of oil paintings and gouache on paper works made over the last few months and enthused by various sources, including global events, literature and music.

The exhibition name Radical Times comes from one of the new painting on display, which topic is related to the political and social chaos and to the considerable events we are experiencing today.

Another interesting work on show was Deep Water. This painting was made while the artists observed migrants coming to Greece escaping from the dreadful Middle East war zone.

Other works like Wandering and Wondering (2016), Nightlife and Dreamtime (2016) focused on holiday time, contemplation and relax in a contraposition with the hectic nature of life.

According to the personal style of the artist, the paintings on show at the Lisson Gallery of London were made following a repetitive pattern of colours, based on the use of a freely painted grid. His works rely on the visual impact on the value and saturation of colour.

Stanley Whitney uses contrasting colours to bring to mind liaisons, but they can be similar or discordant. It is abstract composition made up of coloured blocks and lines typically in three or more stacks. The juxtaposition between the coloured elements consents to Whitney to play without end. The artist, in fact, has an immeasurable number of options to modify the rectangular shapes by altering dimension, density, transparency and blurring.

However, using the same similar pattern in all his works may brings the eyes of the visitors to disaffection, because spotting the differences is laborious.

The artist has been investigating this approach for almost three decades. His practice of painted tessellation has been constantly refined and he refers to this enhancement process like an athlete training to stay in shape.

Another aspect of the work of Stanley Whitney is its strong connection to music, especially to jazz and African harmonies. He says he practices dance steps before doing canvas. Jazz clubs in Philadelphia and New York pulled him into a multi-ethnic bohemian lifestyle. He also uses a technique called “call and response” to decide which colours set nearby and it is adopted by the musical pattern of the same name.

Considering the rhythm of the works, Whitney quotes the painting Masters together with jazz renowned musicians, such as Charlie Parker or Ornette Coleman. He has often mentioned of the influence that Coleman’s album “The Shape of Jazz to Come” (1959) had on him when still at school.

Stanley Whitney was born in Philadelphia (US) in 1946. He lives and works in New York City and Parma, Italy. He holds a BFA from Kansas City Art Institute as well as an MFA from Yale University and is currently Professor Emeritus of painting and drawing at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia. His major solo exhibition, ‘Dance the Orange’ was at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2015) and he has been included in many group shows such as ‘Nero su Bianco’ at the American Academy in Rome (2015); ‘Outside the Lines: Black in the Abstract’, Contemporary Art Museum of Houston (2014); ‘Reinventing Abstraction: New York Painting in the 1980s’, Cheim & Read, New York (2013) and ‘Utopia Station’ at the 50th Venice Biennale (2003). He has won prizes including the Robert De Niro Sr. Prize in Painting (2011), the American Academy of Arts and Letters Art Award (2010) and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996. Whitney’s work is included in public collections such as the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven.

The exhibition “Stanley Whitney: Radical Times” was at the Lisson Gallery, London, from 20th May until 2nd July 2016.