Massimo De Carlo presents White:Work, a new exhibition by McArthur Binion in the London gallery. Throughout his fifty-year practice of assemblage painting, Binion has continually defied classification as an artist. Terms such as abstraction and minimalism have often been applied to his paintings, however Binion’s oeuvre resists such rigid categorisations.
Through the artist’s extensive career, Binion has developed a complex practice, incorporating interwoven personal memories with historical recollection bound by his experience of America in the past, by layering paint and personal memorabilia onto the surface of the work. The artist presents a new series of work, predominantly whitewashed (in the most literal sense), using gestures from the artist’s canon. White:Work is a departure in tonal quality of the solemn hues that dictated the prior DNA (2017) series, when the works made their international debut at the Venice Biennale. In this new exhibition, the grids that create the skeletal structure foundational to Binion’s practice become enveloped in a soft overlay of the colour white, yet subtly remaining at the forefront of the works.
Binion’s works are deeply personal, and the obsessive, exhaustive process of manual labour is inherent in the furrow of grids that dominate the board. Binion fuses personal documents to the boards prior to applying oil paint stick. By doing so, the artist asserts his own existence, whereas the layers of paint encompass the artists’ experience with authority and the art world in the U.S. The intricate surfaces of the boards become abstract shapes and motives: the artist’s archival belongings, that can only be seen when in close proximity to the work, are transformed by the paint into weightily textured patterns and reflect the influence of modernism in Binion’s practice.
The off-white, faded brown and pinkish hues combine earthy lattices next to an expanse of white; transforming the colour white, often conceived as a lack of, into the tonal emphasis of the exhibition. White:Work (black) stands out from the rest of the series, a duo chrome of apposing black to white. Since black comes from the absence of light, and white symbolically is the absence of colour, the duality of this pairing is ever so rarely accidental, verging on brash in contrast to the rest of the pieces.
White:Work presents itself as a muted journey, embodying the essence of Binion’s practice: infusing layers of personal history under the painstaking grids of white and off- white tones. Binion’s work speaks a language of subtlety and sophistication, but through decades of repetition it has matured to a fluency and eloquence that speaks through weightily textured patterns and a post-minimal allure.
McArthur Binion was born in Macon, Mississippi, in 1946. He lives and works in Chicago. Binion’s works are included in the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, VIVA ARTE VIVA, curated by Christine Macel. Solo exhibitions include: New:Work, Massimo De Carlo, Hong Kong, HK (2019); Ink:Work, Massimo De Carlo, Milan, IT (2018); Binion/Saarinen: A McArthur Binion Project, the Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI, US (2018); DNA:Sepia, Massimo De Carlo, London, UK (2017); Perspectives 177: McArthur Binion, Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, TX, US (2012). Binion’s work has been included in group exhibitions such as: Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem, Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA, US (2019); Expanding Narratives: The Figure and the Ground, Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, US (2018); Something to Say: The McNay Presents 100 Years of African American Art, NcNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX, US (2018); Picturing Mississippi, 1817-2017: Land of Plenty, Pain, and Promise, Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, MI, US (2017); Through the African American Lens, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC, US (2016); Piece by Piece: Building a Collection, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO, US (2015); Prospect.3: Notes for Now, curated by Franklin Sirmans, New Orleans, LA, US (2014).
Installation views: Todd-White Art Photography. Courtesy Massimo De Carlo, Milan/London/Hong Kong