Paul Behnke & Stanley Whitney: Fearless Color

Paul Behnke, A Kind of Grail, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 50 inches (courtesy
Paul Behnke, A Kind of Grail, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 50 inches (courtesy Kathryn Markel Gallery)

John Yau reviews two exhibitions that foreground color: Paul Behnke: An Awful Rainbow at Kathryn Markel Gallery (through May 18) and Stanley Whitney: Other Colors I Forget at Team Gallery, New York (through May 12).

Yau notes that "In Behnke’s best paintings, our focus shifts between dissonance and order, large and small, solid planes and scraped 'unfinished' areas. Where an earlier layer has not been painted over, its color punches through the hole and grab us. Hot and cool colors abut, as well as complementary ones. You have the feeling that Behnke is trying to pull out all the stops, that he wants structure and chaos to coincide." Whitney, Yau writes, "extends his gamut, going from thin, crackled surfaces, to washy, translucent layers exposing painted over shapes, to solid planes of color. And he might suddenly paint wet into wet, suspending brushstrokes of maroon in a green rectangle. Clearly, there is little or no plan when he begins with one color and moves to the next. It is comparable to writing a poem word by word, rather than line by line."