Stanley Whitney: Interview

Stanley Whitney, Goya’s Lantern, 2012, oil on linen, 72×72 inches (courtesy of t
Stanley Whitney, Goya’s Lantern, 2012, oil on linen, 72×72 inches (courtesy of the artist and Team Gallery)

David Reed interviews painter Stanley Whitney.

Discussing color, Whitney comments: "I think artists have tried to explore color but not in a real worldly sense. When I say that I mean that if you go to India, there are worlds and worlds of color—10,000 shades of orange on the street. I really want the hand to be a part of it. I want color to shift if I put it on thicker or thinner. I want the human touch... You know, I love to look at Courbet, or Velázquez, or Goya, it’s like the red slash. I want to have some of those elements in my painting. I never really paint subject matter, I just like what the paint is doing. So for me to go look at, say, Velázquez is really important. I want those ideas about color, light, and touch—I just want all those aspects of painting... If I look at Courbet’s Portrait of Jo (la belle Irlandaise), I might be thinking about the way he painted that hair, the weight of the color. Or, in a Manet, I might look at what the white in the dress is doing. He changed the touch, and it’s a cloud. Those are the things that interest me and that I’m trying to adopt. But it took me a long time to get those kinds of colors. Earlier, I painted marks in a gray field. I couldn’t make a lot of color. I couldn’t really control the space."