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Stanley Whitney

American, born 1946

Portrait of Stanley Whitney by Aundre Larrow, 2023 © Aundre Larrow

Stanley Whitney was born in 1946 in Bryn Mawr, near Philadelphia, and grew up in a house filled with music. From a young age, Whitney knew he wanted to be an artist. In the summer of 1968, while studying for his BFA at the Kansas City Art Institute, Whitney was invited to an arts program at Skidmore College. There, he met two significant early mentors: Philip Guston and Robert Reed. A few years later, Reed successfully encouraged him to matriculate at the Yale School of Art, where Reed was on the faculty. With his early acrylic paintings of 1971–72, Whitney struggled to combine gesture and color while feeling out of place in the New York art world. As he recounted in a 2018 interview, “When I arrived in [New York after graduation from Yale] I saw everything and tried to understand where I fit in—from Philip Guston to Clement Greenberg and the Color Field, to Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg. . . And I soon discovered that I didn’t fit in. I knew in those days, it’s gonna be a long haul.”

Despite many breakthroughs, Whitney had only one solo show in New York between 1972 and 1989. In 1992, dissatisfied with his inability to find a place in the New York art world for his work, Whitney and his wife, the artist Marina Adams moved to Italy for several years and traveled to Egypt. As a result of his travels, Whitney began collapsing the space between his blocks of color, a decision that eventually led to the richly colored, endlessly variable compositions he continues to make today. At the same time, Whitney’s drawing practice has remained a site of extraordinary and parallel experimentation, from his ink drawings of the early 1980s to No to Prison Life, his series of graphite and crayon drawings from around 2020.

Solo exhibitions include Stanley Whitney: The Italian Paintings, Palazzo Tiepolo Passi, Venice, an official collateral event of the 59th Venice Biennale, presented by the Buffalo AKG Art Museum (2022); FOCUS: Stanley Whitney, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2017) and Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange, the Studio Museum in Harlem in New York (2015). His work has been included in significant group exhibitions, including documenta 14 in Athens, Greece and Kassel, Germany (2017), Outside the Lines: Black in the Abstract at Contemporary Art Museum Houston (2014), and Utopia Station at the 50th Venice Biennale (2003). His works are included in the collections of many major museums, including those of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, the Pérez Art Museum Miami, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Studio Museum in Harlem in New York, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Stanley Whitney: The Italian Paintings

Collateral Event at the 59th International Art Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia
Presented by the Future Buffalo AKG Art Museum

Palazzo Tiepolo Passi, Venice, Italy
April 23–November 27, 2022 

On view at Palazzo Tiepolo Passi as an official Collateral Event at the Biennale Arte 2022, Stanley Whitney: The Italian Paintings is a look at Whitney’s practice over the last three decades seen through an Italian lens. Stanley Whitney: The Italian Paintings is not only the first time the New York–based painter will present works that have been exclusively created in Italy, but it is also the first opportunity to experience these works together in their cultural birthplace. The title refers to a body of work that encompasses pivotal transitional paintings from the time Whitney spent in Rome in the early 1990s, through to the work created during subsequent summers in his studio in Parma. The presentation considers, for the first time, the important influence of Italian art and architecture on Whitney’s oeuvre. The exhibition is presented by the future Buffalo AKG Art Museum and co-curated by Cathleen Chaffee, Chief Curator, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and Vincenzo de Bellis, Curator and Associate Director of Programs, Visual Arts, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and will be accompanied by a catalogue to be published in Summer 2022. Stanley Whitney: The Italian Paintings precedes a major survey exhibition at the Buffalo AKG in Buffalo, NY, USA in 2024, organized by Chaffee.

Stanley Whitney: The Italian Paintings at Palazzo Tiepolo Passi is supported by Lisson Gallery.

Stanley Whitney: How High the Moon

Buffalo AKG Art Museum, Buffalo, New York
February 9–May 27, 2024

Stanley Whitney's work will be the subject of a major retrospective survey exhibition at the future Buffalo AKG Art Museum in 2024. Conveying the breadth of Whitney’s practice throughout the decades, the exhibition will include paintings beginning with his works from the early 1970s and extending to his most recent canvases, as well as a robust installation of drawings, prints, and sketchbooks. David Hammons once asked about Whitney’s work: “How could something be so quiet and have so much to say?” This exhibition will give visitors their first opportunity to experience the full scope of Whitney’s practice contextualized in relation to his artistic community as well as his influences—from the history of art and architecture to quilting, textiles, and jazz.

Portrait of Stanley Whitney by Aundre Larrow, 2023 © Aundre Larrow

Portrait of Stanley Whitney by Aundre Larrow, 2023 © Aundre Larrow