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Stanley Whitney’s Machine for Painting

MAHÓN, Menorca — I usually don’t go around ranking artists but I was enormously impressed by the Albert Oehlen retrospective in Venice this past January. I thought, who do we have as good as this guy? Seeing Stanley Whitney’s most recent work this summer gave me my answer. While not departing from his known program, his newest seems to demonstrate more abundantly than ever what painting can and must do, and how simply and forthrightly it can be manifested.

Oelhlen and Whitney have an eight-year age difference. While each Oehlen painting is a product of negations of what he has previously done on the canvas, Whitney negated all his early work until he arrived at what he wanted: he once said in an interview that for his first 20 years or so he hated what he came up with. His candor, incidentally, is a very generous gesture, especially toward younger artists...

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