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Stanley Whitney Doesn’t Like to Look Back, Even on the Eve of His First-Ever Retrospective

Lists of great artists often begin with rule breakers and revolutionaries—people like Duchamp, Pollock, and, Warhol who changed art by zagging from its traditions. Stanley Whitney belongs among these names, but he’s no revolutionary. The 77-year-old abstractionist has, after all, spent the last two decades of his career painting variations of the same square, gridded image. For all his achievements, Whitney has never been one to reinvent the wheel.

This fact is a central theme of the artist’s first-ever retrospective, “How High the Moon,” which just opened at the Buffalo AKG Art Museum in Western New York. While many career-spanning surveys measure their subjects’ success on scales weighted toward progress and innovation, this show highlights an artist who prevailed on different terms. A snippet of wall text two-thirds of the way in sums it up nicely: “Whitney has made paintings that are not about getting somewhere but about laboring to find where we are.” ...

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