Color 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 color. 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 color 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 color 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 ’70s and ’80s, 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 color. I kept thinking the space was around, and the color was all in the space. When I put the colors directly next to each other, I realized 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 2013-14 which demonstrate Whitney’s evolving exploration of the balance between hue and expression.