Stanley Whitney attended the Yale School of Art and graduated with his MFA in 1972. At the time he did not fully agree with the ideals and politics of the 1970s and 1980s contemporary art scenes. His work goes against the stereotype that African American artists should only make works that have themes of cultural and racial identity. Much of his work is about experimentation with the visual language of abstraction. As his career has continued, he has also developed an interest in gesture and the power it has in art.
Much of his work features chromatic experimentation, but in 1990 he developed his own distinct approach after spending some living in Rome. Inspired by Roman art and architecture, his works began to have denser stacked compositions.