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  • Provenance

    Esso Gallery, New York
    Private Collection, Europe
    Private Collection, Asia
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Composed of an enthralling pictorial balance between hue and expression, Winter Rap is an exemplary work of Stanley Whitney’s unique oeuvre, one that has become central to the current discourse of abstract painting in the contemporary era. Celebrated for the mesmerising effects caused by the internal conflicts and resolutions present in his seemingly simple compositions, this paradigmatic work from 2005 encapsulates Whitney’s profound relationship with colour and its spatial effects.

    The composition of the present lot is simple: rectangles of irregular sizes are stacked in four rows, delineated by five horizontal strips running the length of the canvas. Each band contains five to six blocks of colour, applied in a considered palette of lavender, midnight blue, lemon yellow, and various shades of red and off-white, with a sparing amount of intense black thrown into the mix. What initially appears as an abstract grid gives way to a more controlled process upon closer inspection, as Whitney’s freehand brushwork fluctuates between freedom and constraint. While some of the blocks have clear edges that are defined by a distinct brushstroke to keep them from exceeding their boundaries, others mix and overlap. Some rectangles have patches that expose an entirely different colour underneath, such as the pastel purple block in Winter Rap that reveals hints of a previous coat of lime-green. The contrast between flat sections and those that are more gestural and transparent contributes to a layered surface that is both luxurious and matte. The total effect is comforting yet also arresting, as the vibrantly lyrical composition pulsates, sending the eye on a rotating journey as the colours appear to animate and dance around the viewer.

    Whitney has greatly contributed to colour field painting since his move from Philadelphia to New York at the age of 22. Alongside contemporaries such as Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland, Whitney explored the boundaries of pure abstraction with large areas of flat single colours (see for example Frank Stella’s Hyena Stomp, 1962). In the mid-1990s, excursions to the Mediterranean and Egypt convinced Whitney that ancient architecture presented a way to combine structural unity with visual splendor. It was here that Whitney found his “piece of the puzzle” (Aruna D’Souza, “The Colour Makes the Structure: Stanley Whitney Paints a Picture”, ARTNews, 30 May 2017, online). Seeking to find a balance between colour and space on his canvases, the artist began emptying the air and space out of his compositions to bring the planes of colour closer together. The result, colourful stacked rectangles, soon became Whitney’s signature format.

    The present lot, Winter Rap, encapsulates not only this sense of equilibrium, but also the defining themes that have contributed to the artist’s career since the 1970s. Drawing from a wide range of influences including Renaissance painting, early Minimalism and vibrant African-American colour-blocked quilts, the lively placement of colour in the present work also conveys a sense of rhythm and harmony reminiscent of the call-and-response traditions of jazz music. As a self-described ‘process-painter’, the methodological approach Whitney follows is that “colour dictates the structure, not the other way around” (Stanley Whitney, quoted in Stan Mir, “A Painter With a Purpose”, HyperAllergic, 23 March 2019, online). Starting at the top left of a canvas and working his way across and down to the bottom right corner, Whitney’s unique compositional mastery derives from allowing one colour to beckon the next. Following his successful seminal solo exhibition Dance the Orange at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York in 2015, the artist has experienced a deserving ascent to international acclaim and success, confirming the historical significance of his practice.

    As Lauren Haynes, curator of Whitney’s solo show at the Studio Museum in 2015, explained: “Whitney’s work interrogates the connections among colours, how they lead to and away from one another, what memories they are associated with…Whitney’s colours take on lives of their own. They evoke memory and nostalgia. This orange takes you back to your favourite childhood t-shirt; that blue reminds you of your grandmother’s kitchen. Whitney’s paintings remind us, on a universal scale, of the ability of colour to trigger feelings and sensations.” (Lauren Haynes, “Orange That Blue”, Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, 2015, p.28)

    Tightened and honed over many years, Whitney’s maturely defined practice has found its place in public collections globally, including the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas, USA; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA; the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, both in New York. Furthermore, the artist joined the Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996, before additionally being awarded a Pollock-Frasner Foundation Fellowship in 2002, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Art Award in 2010 and the Robert De Niro Sr. Prize in Painting in 2011. The artist continues to work in New York City and Parma, Italy.

  • Artist Biography

    Stanley Whitney

    American • 1946

    Inspired by Renaissance painting, Minimalist sculpture and jazz music, Stanley Whitney’s oeuvre has become central to the current discourse of abstract painting in the contemporary era. Following recent solo exhibitions at the Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, the 72-year-old artist has only just received the critical acclaim he deserves. After moving to New York from Philadelphia at the age of 22, Whitney aligned himself with the Color Field painters, often working in the shadows of his contemporaries including Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland. Throughout the decades that followed, however, the artist soon established himself as a key player in 20th century abstraction, traveling the world and gaining recognition not only in the studio, but also in the classroom, where he has taught Painting and Drawing at the Tyler School of Art for over 30 years. As such, Whitney’s influence extends to a generation of new artists exploring the formal tenants of painting today.

    As Lauren Haynes, curator of Whitney’s solo show at the Studio Museum in 2015, aptly wrote, “Whitney’s work interrogates the connections among colors, how they lead to and away from one another, what memories they are associated with…Whitney’s colors take on lives of their own. They evoke memory and nostalgia. This orange takes you back to your favorite childhood t-shirt; that blue reminds you of your grandmother’s kitchen. Whitney’s paintings remind us, on a universal scale, of the ability of color to trigger feelings and sensations.”

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10

Winter Rap

2005
signed, titled and dated ‘2005 Stanley Whitney “Winter Rap”’ on the reverse
oil on linen
135.8 x 152.6 cm. (53 1/2 x 60 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2005.

Estimate
HK$1,000,000 - 2,000,000 
€114,000-228,000
$128,000-256,000

Sold for HK$2,875,000

Contact Specialist
Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 24 November 2019