LOS ANGELES — “I can’t stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession,” Billie Holiday wrote in her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues. To her, performing the same song without variation drained the idiosyncratic magic out of music, reducing it to automation. I thought about Holiday while walking through Stanley Whitney’s solo exhibition, How Black is That Blue, at Matthew Marks Gallery. The artist’s first major show in Los Angeles, the exhibition features 11 new works, nine oil paintings, and two gouache works on paper, and provides a crash course on Whitney’s improvisatory approach to abstraction.
Since 1996, Whitney has returned to the same format for his paintings: stacks of colorful rectangles arranged within a large square of canvas. His colors are brilliant and expressive, with jolts of tangerine oranges, drippy reds, and meditative azures. Each canvas follows its own off-beat rhythm, with three or four horizontal bands dividing each square into quirky grids. Like a jazz player riffing on the same chord or melody, Whitney’s paintings delight in the infinite possibilities contained within a simple motif or process. The Philadelphia-born, New York-based artist often cites experimental jazz as an influence on his practice, as well as Roman architecture, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and Gee’s Bend quilts.
In “Sun Moon” (2020), a yellow band matches a squat yellow block near the upper left-hand corner, opening up a pathway of space. These intuitive flourishes disrupt the homogeneity of the grid, infusing a sense of play and wonder. The bands can either reinforce the hectic rows or merge with random squares, making it impossible for the paintings to settle into a familiar pattern. The repetition of shapes put me in a trance, where I became more receptive to the dissonant moods of the brushstrokes, from layered, bombastic spurts to smooth, matte surfaces.
Roaming the naturally lit gallery space felt like listening to the same song on repeat, though every rendition brought forth a new memory, desire, and enigma.
Stanley Whitney: How Black is That Blue continues online and by appointment at Matthew Marks Gallery (1062 N Orange Grove Ave, West Hollywood, Los Angeles) through May 8.
The last few years at the museum have not been without controversy, and Decatur will inherit a record of workforce struggles.
Refugees of the Moria camp in Lesvos, Greece are behind the camera in the film Nothing About Us Without Us.
This adventurous theater festival returns in person with 36 artists and companies from nine countries performing at different venues across the city.
Helen Molesworth’s true-crime sensation marginalizes the artist’s life and legacy.
Members of NatSoc Florida performed the Nazi salute and chanted “Heil Hitler” at a local LGBTQ+ charity’s fundraiser in Lakeland.
Learn more about the New York-based, globally linked program and its upcoming discussions on art and society in the time of AI and data governance.
Nothing on the canvas wholly captures what it means to belong on land or at sea.
Dyson is part of a growing number of contemporary artists to imbue geometric abstraction with a sociopolitical dimension.
The program, along with recently announced visiting critics, will provide long term funding, promote access, and safeguard experimentation for future students of color.
In an exhibition that consists of mostly small-scale black and white works on paper, viewer engagement almost magically awakens the sleepy room.
Maria Maea’s All in Time continues an intergenerational conversation and exemplifies the artist’s process, not simply the finished pieces.
Koestler Arts works with incarcerated people and patients in secure mental health units, aiming to improve their lives through creativity.
Local artists and culture workers are wondering how the arena will impact the arts landscape, including museums and alternative spaces.