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Stanley Whitney Dances With Matisse

Stanley Whitney starts every painting the same way. Like a bricklayer, the 74-year-old artist paints a horizontal band along the top edge of the canvas, then lays down blocks of saturated color, from left to right, across and down, in a vibrant, wobbly, improvisational grid.

“It’s like call and response — the paintings tell me what to do,” said Whitney, who can move right through the paces in one blast, or jump backward or forward as the canvas requires. For the last three decades he has cranked Miles Davis’s “Bitches Brew” each time he paints. “It gets me in the zone,” he said. “You kind of become the music.”

Across canvases large and small ringing the walls of his capacious new studio, Whitney achieved glorious variety in palette, rhythm, juxtaposition and touch. Many of these paintings created over the last year will go on view Nov. 2 in “Stanley Whitney: TwentyTwenty” at Lisson Gallery in Chelsea...

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