For over fifty years Stanley Whitney has been exploring the formal qualities of painted, saturated color. Born in Philadelphia, Whitney graduated from Kansas City Art Institute and Yale University. This academic training is reflected in his knowledge of art historical traditions of color, from Renaissance painting to Matisse cut-outs. Whitney cites the improvisational nature of jazz as inspiration, specifically trumpeter Miles Davis. For the artist, the act of painting and color selection depends on continual attention to tone, rhythm, and harmony, much like that of a musician.
In this painting, Whitney divides his canvas into a grid, filling each square with vibrant hues that complement and offset the surrounding colors. As a colorist working in an abstract language, Whitney uses the same structure repeatedly, dividing his canvas into four bands of boldly imperfect blocks separated by three deliberate horizontal stripes. These loosely latticed compositions juxtapose individual hues, textures, and tonal values, with pure colors that can vibrate—akin to the visual effects in abstract color field paintings by Mark Rothko, or the artistic traditions of patchwork quilting.
Stanley Whitney (American, born 1946), Blue Meets Yellow, 2011, oil on canvas, 72 × 72 inches. Gift from the Collection of Stephen Simoni and John Sacchi in honor of Donna J. MacMillan, Chair of the Board of Trustees, 14-2012.