Untitled (Circuit Landscape Series)

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  • Provenance

    Kavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago

  • Catalogue Essay

    Born 1946, Macon, MS
    Lives and works in Chicago, IL

    1973 MFA, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI
    1971 BFA, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI

    Selected honors: Purchase Prize (2017); New York C.E.T.A. Artist Project Grant (1978); and National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship Grant (1976)
    Selected museum exhibitions and performances: The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI; Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, TX
    Selected public collection: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C.; New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA; Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C.

    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. 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.

    Binion is known for his nuanced abstract paintings that eschew brushes and paint. Untitled (Circuit Landscape Series), circa 1972, is one of the earliest examples of his now characteristic use of crayon, or paint stick. "In 1972 when I started to use them, they were basically industrial marking sticks," he recalls. 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. “It seems that because your work is so emotional and personal, and because you’re African-American, people read into it as being about identity and race somehow. But I get the sense that it’s not,” Abrams noted in conversation with Binion, to which Binion replied, laughing, “It’s not... 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!”


Untitled (Circuit Landscape Series)

oil stick and Dixon wax crayon on aluminum
25 x 32 in. (63.5 x 81.3 cm.)
Executed circa 1972.

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New York Selling Exhibition 10 January - 8 February 2019