This exhibition took place at our previous 10th Ave, New York location.
Colour inspires and informs the work of Stanley Whitney, whose paintings explore the many possibilities created by the tessellation and juxtaposition of irregular rectangles in varying shades of strength and subtlety. Within the composition of these adjacent nodes-a structure that fluctuates between freedom and constraint, between endless open fields and controlled boundaries-is ultimately a play between complementing and competing areas of colour. This exhibition, Whitney's fourth with the gallery and the first solo show to occupy both of the New York gallery spaces, investigates his profound relationship to colour and its spatial effects throughout his career. It features paintings and drawings dating back to the 1990s in one gallery and a suite of brand new works in the other. To accompany this double showing, Lisson Gallery will publish a catalogue featuring new scholarship by Andrianna Campbell.
Whitney settled on his signature format-stacked irregular rectangles of colour within a square format canvas-following time spent in Italy and a visit to Egypt in the mid-1990s. However, in earlier work of the 1970s and 1980s, Whitney was seeking a sense of lightness and air in his compositions and worked to achieve this by allowing a great deal of space between gestures, which were then applied in loose, overlapping whorls. He has noted, 'I didn't know at this point that the space was in the colour. I kept thinking the space was around, and the colour was all in the space. When I put the colours directly next to each other, I realised they didn't lose the air.' Four paintings from this vital, transitional period, when Whitney first began to solidify his swirling strokes into intense colour grids, will be on view at 138 Tenth Avenue, alongside a series of drawings from 2013–2014 which demonstrate Whitney's evolving exploration of the balance between hue and expression.
A series of new paintings on view at 504 West 24th Street celebrates Whitney's now mature approach to the gridded abstract. Over many years this style has been honed, tightened and defined, perhaps in response to the cumulative influence of everything from the meditative, multi-faceted landscapes of Paul Cézanne and the stacked structures of classical architecture, to the expansive colour fields of monochrome painting and the bold, colour-blocked quilts of African-American textile makers. Yet the sensitive and lively placement of color retains its importance in this newly discovered pictorial space and it is within the transitions between passages of colour where Whitney evokes the most rhythmic qualities of painting. By varying the density and transparency of the rectangles, he is able to further adjust the amount and quality of colour in space. The exhibition's title comes from the title of a recent work, In the Color, which also demonstrates this increasingly precise 'call and response' between each coloured zone of paint. This work has been executed in the largest square format of Whitney's oeuvre, 96 inches by 96 inches, and is comprised of four rows containing a line-up of between five to six colours in each band. The individual rectangles retain a bold, opaque quality with less of the drips and swirling fluidity of the early grid work. The importance is, as always, in the colour.
Press release courtesy Lisson Gallery.