McArthur Binion: Works for Sale, Upcoming Auctions & Past Results

McArthur Binion

American  •  b. 1946

Biography

In his 40 year career, McArthur Binion has forged a unique path as an artist. Though emerging in the New York art world of the 1970s alongside artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Hammons, Dan Flavin, Brice Marden, and Gordon Matta-Clark, Binion has only very recently been garnering significant attention. After years of deliberately keeping a relatively low profile, Binion, now aged 72 and living in Chicago, is now in the limelight with a career that ever since his prominent inclusion in the 2017 Venice Biennale is on a steady rise.

Binion is known for his nuanced abstract paintings that eschew brushes and paint. The process of grinding and then rubbing oilstick into wood and aluminum panels produces abstract subjects that are often mono- or duo-chromatic. He had to train himself to be ambidextrous to negotiate hand fatigue, and works an entire surface of a painting in one sitting, before returning to rework that surface the next day or week or month – with some works even taking years to complete. Binion, who often also incorporates photocopied biographical documents into his works, places personal memory in dialogue with the language of abstraction, specifically action painting, Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism, as well as stylistic tropes common to folk artists, such as quilt patterns.


Though Binion received offers to exhibit his work in the 1970s, he deliberately chose against it. As Binion explained in a 2016 Artspace interview with Loney Abrams: “It was a choice because it was, and still is, very important to me that my work is seen in a certain way…I was invited everywhere, and I was a part of the scene, but I didn’t want to be the only black person out there… I knew my work wouldn’t have been seen the way I wanted it to be seen. Back then, people were describing me as a Minimalist artist, and for me, my work had much more emotional content.” Nowadays, a somewhat different misinterpretation continues to linger.

Insights

  • In November 2018, a solo show of Binion’s work opened at the Cranbrook Art Museum in Michigan, where he was the first African-American to graduate with a MFA.

"It’s very easy for writers and viewers to see race in work, because black people were only recently honored in society at all. But…the important thing is, there is no historical line running through me. I made myself up!”

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