Abstract painting is a vital contemporary language offering a resting place from the endless photography and captioning of the internet. Wallace Whitney’s canvases provide a perceptual experience that resists photography—a medium which can only capture a shadow of what lives and breathes on the surface of a canvas. Direct and durational looking is required to fully access Whitney’s intentions. Fugitive glimpses of a unified graphic whole give way to shifting areas of color, which emerge and recede onto the receiving retina. Stamping, scraping, and the use of idiosyncratic mark-making implements brings the paintings into being, while still leaving them in a state of flux—or in Whitney’s words, unfinished. The task of completing these works is given to the viewer.
In the politically conservative climate of 1950s New York, there was an outpost of progressive ideas reflected in work made in cold-water flats before Manhattan became a gated community. Abstraction again flourished in the Regan-era '80s when the Lower East Side was an important incubator of ideas. We are once again living nervously under a conservative tyrant, and Whitney’s language of painting offers an alternative to the language and images used to manipulate public opinion and propagate hate.
Whitney’s paintings don’t have an agenda, don’t require outside information to be understood, and don’t require a fixed point of view. The spirit of experimentation used in their making results in a collaborative viewing experience, an alternative stance in making and seeing.