McArthur Binion – healing:work features 10 works from Binion’s most recent series of work on paper. Composed entirely of graphite and ink on paper, this series is the beginning of a larger body of work that will culminate in a site-specific altarpiece painting, to be unveiled in Florence, Italy in October 2020. Though he ended his own relationship with the church at a young age, Binion was inspired by the invitation to create an altarpiece, combining his own unique minimal aesthetic with the arch shape emblematic of religious spaces. This series marks the first time Binion has dealt directly with religion in his practice. Reminiscent of the neoclassical Roman Arch found in many churches, the shapes in the healing:work series suggest a more narrative gesture than is often conveyed in the abstract forms of Binion’s previous work. The single, double, or overlapping arches evoke a distinct tone; where a solitary deep blue arch suggests mourning, overlapping purple arches imply a union or harmony of sorts.
A portion of the proceeds from this Online Viewing Room will be donated to Modern Ancient Brown. Established in 2019 by McArthur Binion and headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, the Modern Ancient Brown Foundation endeavors to support the intersection between the visual and literary arts in the Detroit community. In 2020, the Foundation announced the opening of its one-month literary residency for underrepresented contemporary artists and in-market grant support for Detroit-based artists.
Over the last four decades, Binion has developed a distinct visual language, often utilizing a hand-drawn grid (upon which subtle geometric shapes sometimes appear) layered over an “under conscious” of personal documents and photographs―photocopies of his birth certificate, pages from his address book, and pictures from his childhood. In the healing:work series, Binion continues this practice, tiling uniform squares of sections of his address book from 1972 to 1992 and his birth certificate. Here, he uses repeated lines and different weights of graphite to create visible contrast between each tile and then marks the surface with an ink wash, creating a single or double arch in vibrant greens, purples, and blues that range from bright hues to dark black.
While best known as a painter, McArthur Binion’s first love was working with paper. The artist collects unique handmade paper of various types, colors, and thicknesses, drawn to their surfaces and the way they hold ink, graphite, or oil stick. Binion’s distinctive use of an “under conscious” of personal documents or photographs first appeared during the 1980s in paintings and drawings on paper that combined repeated grids of color with found imagery―including fruit stickers, lottery tickets, and personal ephemera.
In his Artist:Gambler works from 1982, Binion produced a series of felt-tip and ballpoint pen drawings of cars comprised of grids of red, blue, green, and brown over tiles of Daily Lottery game tickets adhered to graph paper. Although Binion was raised in Detroit and received his formal artistic education at Wayne State University and the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, the Artist:Gambler series marks the first time Binion created work specifically about the city. For Binion, both the cars and the Daily Lottery tickets are markers of Detroit’s landscape, which features car dealerships and casinos, and call to mind the nickname “Detroit Motorcity.”
“Our assumptions and expectations of a ‘minimalist’ vocabulary, its art historical origins, and its regularity, are subtly disrupted. He unveils—through repetition, the use of the hand, and the painting’s underlayers—visceral truths of being a Black man, which our society might prefer to keep buried.”
— Jennifer Samet, Hyperallergic, 2020
McArthur Binion (b. 1946, Macon, MS; lives and works in Chicago, IL) combines collage, drawing, and painting to create autobiographical abstractions of minimalist patterns over an “under conscious” of personal documents and photographs. From photocopies of his birth certificate and pages from his address book to pictures from his childhood, the poignant and charged images that constitute the tiled base of his work are concealed and abstracted by grids of oil stick and washes of ink. The complexly layered works, from a distance, appear to be monochromatic minimalist abstractions that have led many to compare his work to that of Jasper Johns, Robert Ryman, or Brice Marden. However, while his contemporaries focused more on materiality, abstraction, and in some cases the social and political climate of the time, Binion’s works are intensely personal and deeply dedicated to the rigorous process of making a painting.
Click here to read Binion’s full biography.