Born the eleventh child to a family living in rural Mississippi, the artist’s visual narrative chronicles his family’s transition from tenant farmers to factory workers in the industrial automobile capital of Detroit. Subdued by sepia ink, the images of his childhood home, rural landscape, and self-portraits are ghost images that offer a counterweight to the lush, monochromatic, obsessively formed works created from pressing wax-based crayons onto the painting’s surface. While Binion’s obsessive mark-making can be read as a pure exploration into materiality, the use of the crayon as medium renders a critique to the history of painting and the ability to transform the ordinary “child’s medium” into a tool that can render complex studies of color and light.
In his use of the monochrome, Binion’s early work was often contextualized as a contemporary extension of the Minimalist practices of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The artist, however, has resisted this notion; Binion has consistently contended that he is less interested in the reductive practices of painting. Instead, he is preoccupied with the expressive capabilities of abstraction. Binion uses color and form as narrative, and process as signifier. Using his hands as tools, the artist literally presses small measures of crayon onto wooden panel supports. The process of creating a painting is a laborious and painstaking one that is more akin to conceptual or performance art than painting. While Binion’s work–born out of obsessive, repetitive motion–reads like a contemporary interpretation of Jackson Pollock’s action paintings, the artist’s process is more reflective of his southern, rural upbringing. The act of using his hands, Binion recalls, is reminiscent of his childhood: “The same hands, which bled picking cotton as a child, now bleed from the abrasion of colored wax on wood.”
ABOUT THE ARTIST
McArthur Binion was born in 1946 in Macon, Mississippi. He lives and works in Chicago, Illinois. He received an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, making him the first African-American to do so in that school’s history, and a BFA from Wayne State University in Detroit. He has taught as a professor of art at Columbia College in Chicago since 1992.
Binion’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions at such venues as The College for Creative Studies, Detroit; The University of Maryland; George N’Namdi Gallery, Chicago; Jack Tilton Gallery, New York; Comue di Milano, Milan, Italy; The Detroit Institute of Art; and Artists Space, New York.
The Perspectives Series is made possible by major grants from Fayez Sarofim and by donors to the Museum’s Perspectives Fund: Anonymous, Bright Star Productions Inc., Dillon Kyle Architecture, Heidi and David Gerger, Karol Kreymer and Robert J. Card, M.D., Kerry Inman and Denby Auble, Poppi Massey, Lauren Rottet, Leslie and Shannon Sasser in Honor of Lynn Herbert, William F. Stern, and 20K Group, LLC.
The Museum receives support for its education programs from: Anonymous, Baker Hughes Foundation, Louise D. Jamail, John P. McGovern Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. I.H. Kempner III, Kinder Morgan Foundation, Leticia Loya, Andrew R. McFarland, M.D. Anderson Foundation, Marian and Speros Martel Foundation Endowment, Mrs. Louisa Stude Sarofim, Martha Claire Tompkins, and 20K Group, LLC.
Teen Council is supported by Mrs. Louisa Stude Sarofim with additional support from Baker Hughes Foundation.
Funding for the Museum’s operations through the Fund for the Future is made possible by generous grants from Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, Anonymous, Elizabeth Howard Crowell, Barbara and Michael Gamson, Brenda and William Goldberg, Mr. and Mrs. I.H. Kempner III, Leticia Loya, and Fayez Sarofim.
CAMH’s operations and programs are made possible through the generosity of the Museum’s trustees, patrons, members, and donors. CAMH receives partial operating support from the Houston Endowment, the City of Houston through the Houston Museum District Association, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts, and The Wortham Foundation, Inc.
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