From June 3, as a preview of Stanley Whitney’s upcoming first exhibition with the gallery later this year, Gagosian Rome is presenting the 'Bertacca' paintings, produced in the artist’s studio near Parma, Italy. These works are on view Monday to Friday, from 11am to 6pm.
The vibrancy of Italian art and architecture became an enduring source of inspiration for Whitney when he lived and worked in Italy during the 1990s. The historical facades of the Colosseum and Palazzo Farnese, the stacked shelves of ancient funerary urns at the National Etruscan Museum, and the frescoes of Villa Boscoreale deepened his understanding of the nuanced relationship between structure and colour. In 2017, Whitney titled a painting 'Bertacca' after the small hamlet outside of Parma, in Emilia-Romagna, where his studio is located. Two years later, he painted Bertacca 1, 2, 3, and 4 as the beginning of an ongoing thread. Each Bertacca painting cites the rich shades of vermilion in the Boscoreale frescoes. The unknown Pompeiian artist’s use of colour captured Whitney’s imagination as well as that of another artist, Giorgio Morandi, coincidentally from the same region as where Whitney keeps his current studio. In Emilian cities like Parma, densely packed residential buildings create unusual color stories. Like Whitney’s bars of paint and Morandi’s forms defined by colour rather than line, Parma’s saturated casette vary in proportion and their walls and window shutters parade the same dirty yellows, light pinks, and broken reds.
Working vigorously with his full physical reach in the painting of the 72-by-72-inch canvases, Whitney traces thin layers of oil paint inspired by the warm hues of Emilia-Romagna. In Bertacca 3, a matte cosmic latte—known to scientists as the average colour of the universe—is contrasted by loud tangerines, electric neon greens, and richly textured cobalt blue. Upon closer look, the borders of these colours become less distinct. A brushstroke of cosmic latte glides over the neighboring cobalt, veiling its darker tones. While in Morandi’s compositions delicate shades blur boundaries between objects and space, Whitney partitions space with declarative chromatic chords that stake claims on territory. Variations of texture within each segment retain his active brushstrokes, breathing life into his personal rhythmic language and creating windows into a lifelong relationship with colour.
Following the recent reopening of Gagosian Rome, the gallery has collaborated with La Fondazione to present a nonstop program of art events from Monday to Friday.
Whitney’s Bertacca paintings are on view Monday to Friday, from 11am to 6pm. Next door, La Fondazione complements this viewing with a solo presentation of works by a contemporary Italian artist from 6pm to 11am the following day.
Press release courtesy Gagosian.