new-york

Stanley Whitney, james brown sacrifice to apollo, 2008, oil on linen, 72 × 72".

Stanley Whitney

Studio Museum in Harlem/Karma

Stanley Whitney, james brown sacrifice to apollo, 2008, oil on linen, 72 × 72".

In a career going back to the early 1970s, Stanley Whitney is having a moment, with simultaneous uptown and downtown shows that drew excited responses in the press. This for abstract paintings that are structurally easy to describe as blocks of color set in stacks and rows, a grid format that Whitney has lately brought to a pitch of refinement but that has been present or foreshadowed in his work for a long time. You might think, What’s the fuss? There are many precedents for this kind of painting, and indeed it’s essentially familiar—which, though, doesn’t mean its position is comfortable. A full-length essay on Whitney would set up a context for him in the up-and-down fortunes of abstract painting in the United States since at least the 1930s, when abstraction played underdog to American Regionalism; would balance the triumph of the New York School in midcentury against

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