03 jun 2020 – 17 oct 2020
Stanley Whitney’s first exhibition with the gallery later this year, Gagosian Rome is presenting the Bertacca paintings, produced in the artist’s studio near Parma, Italy.
Italian art and architecture became an enduring source of inspiration for Stanley 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 color. In 2017, Stanley 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 color captured Stanley Whitney’s imagination as well as that of Giorgio Morandi, coincidentally from the same region as where Stanley Whitney maintains a 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 color 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, Stanley 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 color of the universe—is contrasted by loud tangerines, electric neon greens, and richly textured cobalt blue. Upon closer look, the borders of these colors 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, Stanley 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 color.
Via Francesco Crispi, 16