Stanley Whitney’s signature style of chromatic canvas paintings brings a utopian air to classicist Rome, transforming the Gagosian Roma into a mecca of modernism amidst the columned structure that houses the gallery.

Oscillating matrices of painterly grids bring viewers hope at the Gagosian Gallery in Italy, the origin of Western culture and the outburst of the ever-growing Coronavirus pandemic.

Exhibition View - Stanley Whitney, Bertacca Paintings at Gagosian Roma
Mark Rothko, Untitled(1952-53). 300 x 442.5cm Walls of Light Exhibition 2004 Image courtesy of Guggenheim

One similarity that digs beyond the surface of these artists is their timing amidst such difficult moments in human history, the height of World War II, and the crest of the Coronavirus drawing similar levels of fear and confusion amongst the international community. As helpless viewers, many of us victims or affected in some way by these tragedies, we may search for ways to make sense of such a historical upset. In such times we often cling to simplistic visual elements as forces of calm and peace. In this way, art acts as a utopian response to a dystopian vision at play.

Stanley Whitney, Bertacca 4(2019). 182.9 x 182.9 cm. Oil on linen

Housed within Gagosian’s travertine Roman Villa in the heart of the city’s most vibrant cobblestoned quartiere, one might expect classic landscape scenes or studied abstraction in perfect tune. It is exactly this shock of simplicity and haphazard paint application, such as on Whitney’s Bertacca 4 (2019), where the artist leaves raw linen canvas exposed and overlaps blacks on top of green when he feels a previous tone selection was unsuccessful, that leaves viewers in awe at the bigger picture. These artworks come together in perfect harmony in their imperfection.

Detailed view - Bertacca 4 (2019)

This notion of imperfect harmony is parallel to life as we know it in many ways, as the Bertacca series by Stanley Whitney breathes light into the darkness that we witness in a post-Pandemic Italy.

Bertacca Preview on view at Gagosian Roma through 31 July 2020; Re-Opening Bertacca 10 September — 17 October / Via Francesco Crespi 17