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b. 1946, USA

McArthur Binion Biography

For the past 40 years Chicago-based abstract artist McArthur Binion has been producing mixed media works that marry the language of rhythmic Minimalist abstraction with personal memory and autobiography.

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Born to a large family (eventually comprising of 11 siblings) living in rural Mississippi in 1946, he was raised in Detroit, where his family moved in 1951. Binion received his BFA from Wayne State University before studying at Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he met Minimalists Dan Flavin and Ronald Bladen. Subsequently relocating to New York, he steadily began to emerge on the dawning Soho art scene, exhibiting in New York at Artists Space in 1973 in a group exhibition he was selected for by Bladen, and which was co-curated by Sol Lewit and Carl Andre.

Amidst a group of contemporaries in New York, which also included artists like Jack Whitten (with whom Binion shared an interest in striated surfaces) and Frank Bowling, who were exploring fusing abstraction with identity through alternative abstract painterly techniques, and in a time when the possibilities of abstract painting were being re-negotiated, Binion was determined to create his own formal language. He developed a style of 'action painting' that entailed pressing wax crayon onto aluminium or wood, creating minimal but textured surfaces. Works such as Icecicle: Juice (1976, oil stick and Dixon crayon on aluminium) use this process, exploring contrasts of texture and colour within the geometric grids usually associated with Minimalist-style painting. Binion's deployment of the grid positions his practice within the legacy of Modernist masters such as Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian, and on the same spectrum as contemporaries such as Brice Marden and LeWitt; however, Binion has rejected the notion of his work being a contemporary extension of the Minimalist practices of the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was instead interested in exploring narratives through colour, form and process. His painstaking and laborious process of pressing the crayon or oil stick onto wooden or aluminium supports is a performative action that has been related to his Southern, rural upbringing where as a child he used his hands in repetitive motions to pick cotton.

As his style developed Binion increasingly weaved into it an autobiographical element. In 1973 he created a series of works entitled 'Circuit Landscape' (1973), which alludes to his upbringing on the Mississippi cotton farm where he lived before he moved to the heart of heavy industry in Detroit, the grids in each painting giving the impression of abstracted aerial views of rural landscapes. The work titled Ghost: Rhythms (1974–1975, oil stick and Dixon wax crayon on aluminium)—an exploration of warm and cool tones featuring black and muted blue vertical stripes—alludes to his childhood memories of stories of ghosts and family histories told by his mother and aunts. Binion has related his work to a type of bepop, noting that while he is not influenced by jazz music directly, the rhythmic patterns of lines visible in his work arrive from the same place as jazz. Donald Kuspitt writing for ArtForum in 2015 noted that Binion's use of line and colour is not for its own sake but in the service of personal memory and history.

In 1991, Binion, left the New York art world for Chicago, taking up a teaching position as professor of art at Columbia College Chicago from 1992 to 2015, but continuing to paint. Paintings from this period include the 'House: Works' (2000) and 'Stelluca' (2011) series, where he incorporated laser prints as a collaged ground on top of which he applied other mediums. Generally, during this period, he garnered little attention, until in 2012 he was the subject of a solo exhibition at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston entitled Perspectives 177: McArthur Binion (6 January–1 April 2012). Then in 2013, gallerist Kavi Gupta presented a solo exhibition of the artist's early work in New York, and around this time Binion's style also undertook a major shift, where he began to incorporate direct material references to himself within his geometric compositions. The ongoing 'DNA' series Binion started in 2013 carries the hallmarks of this development and also his current style: dense grids painted over a collage of photocopies of autobiographical documents such as a birth certificate and address book pages. In works from this series such as DNA: Study (2018, oil stick and paper on board) fragments of these documents seep through the dense quilt-like surface of intensively hand-drawn lines.

Binion's expressive style is equally present in his 'hand: work' series (2017–ongoing). In this series, outlines of hands are evenly distributed through dense grids. To the artist, hands '... are a place of origin'; we trace their outline as kids and through fingerprints they also connect to identification. Hands too refer to the idea of manual labour that in itself defines one identity, harking back again to the period of the artist's childhood spent picking cotton. His current Hand:Work:II exhibition, which is showing across Lehmann Maupin's Seoul (24 May–13 July 2019) and Hong Kong (22 May–6 July 2019) spaces, as well as Massimo De Carlo's Hong Kong space (22 May–31 August 2019), demonstrates his recent evolving variation of the motif. Works such as hand:work (2018; oil stick, ink, and paper on board) contrast the hand motifs in a yellow grid composition on the left with a similar grey arrangement featuring black-and-white photos of where he was born on the right. Such colour contrasts have been a regular component of Binion's works since the late 1970s and 1980s when he broke from his previous exclusively monotonal, monochromatic palette.

The artist has seen growing recognition in recent years, being conferred with Cranbrook Academy's 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award and included in the 2017 Venice Biennale main show Viva Arte Viva, curated by Christine Marcel.

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2019

Lee Bul, False Azure in the Windowpane (2013) (detail). Polyurethane panel, cast polyurethane, aluminium rod, and acrylic paint. 69 x 68 x 49 cm. Courtesy Lehmann Maupin.

McArthur Binion Featured Artworks

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DNA:Study by McArthur Binion contemporary artwork
McArthur BinionDNA:Study, 2019Ink, oil paint stick, and paper on board
182.9 x 121.9 cm
Lehmann Maupin Enquire about this work
Hand:Work by McArthur Binion contemporary artwork
McArthur BinionHand:Work, 2019Oil paint stick and paper on board
182.9 x 121.9 x 5.1 cm
Lehmann Maupin Enquire about this work
DNA:Study by McArthur Binion contemporary artwork
McArthur BinionDNA:Study, 2019Oil paint stick and paper on board
84 x 84 x 2 inches
Lehmann Maupin Enquire about this work
white:work by McArthur Binion contemporary artwork
McArthur Binionwhite:work, 2019Oil paint stick and paper on board
40 x 24 x 2 inches
Lehmann Maupin Enquire about this work
9 Shapes: Two by McArthur Binion contemporary artwork
McArthur Binion9 Shapes: Two, 2014Oil paint stick on board
162.6 x 116.8 x 5.1 cm
Lehmann Maupin Enquire about this work
Hand:Work by McArthur Binion contemporary artwork
McArthur BinionHand:Work, 2017Oil paint stick and paper on board
203.2 x 152.4 x 5.08 cm
Lehmann Maupin Enquire about this work
ink:work by McArthur Binion contemporary artwork
McArthur Binionink:work, 2018Ink, oil paint stick, and paper on board
36 x 24 x 2 inches
Lehmann Maupin Enquire about this work
Hand:Work by McArthur Binion contemporary artwork
McArthur BinionHand:Work, 2019Oil paint stick and paper on board
72 x 48 x 2 inches
Lehmann Maupin Enquire about this work

McArthur Binion Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Inside Out: The Body Politic at Lehmann Maupin, Seoul
Open Now
2 July–14 August 2020 Group Exhibition Inside Out: The Body Politic Lehmann MaupinSeoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, cart, horse, cart at Lehmann Maupin, New York
Closed
20 June–17 August 2019 Group Exhibition cart, horse, cart Lehmann Maupin536 West 22nd Street, New York
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, cart, horse, cart at Lehmann Maupin, New York
Closed
20 June–17 August 2019 Group Exhibition cart, horse, cart Lehmann Maupin501 West 24th Street, New York

McArthur Binion Represented By

Lehmann Maupin contemporary art gallery in Hong Kong Lehmann Maupin New York, Hong Kong, Seoul

McArthur Binion In Related Press

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McArthur Binion at Lehmann Maupin and Massimo de Carlo Gallery, HK Related Press McArthur Binion at Lehmann Maupin and Massimo de Carlo Gallery, HK 15 August 2019, post-ism

After decades of being overlooked, it's fair to say that 73-year-old American artist McArthur Binion is having a moment. With a spate of recent exhibitions, notably his inclusion in the 2017 Venice Biennale Viva Arte Viva and a 2018 solo exhibition at the Cranbrook Art Museum in Detroit, this past month the artist has also celebrated the opening...

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Discovered After 70, Black Artists Find Success, Too, Has Its Price Related Press Discovered After 70, Black Artists Find Success, Too, Has Its Price 23 March 2019, The New York Times

McArthur Binion had been creating art almost completely under the radar for four decades, handling his own occasional sales and raising two children in Chicago on a teaching salary. Now, Mr. Binion has been fully embraced by the mainstream art world — at the age of 72. His dealer is a prominent Chelsea gallery. Museums and international...

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McArthur Binion at Lehmann Maupin Related Press McArthur Binion at Lehmann Maupin 1 March 2019, Art in America

The ten paintings in McArthur Binion's show (all 2017 or 2018) were from a series called 'Hand:Work.' In one sense, the title is literal: a photographic image of the artist's hand recurs throughout the paintings, serving as a building block and a serial motif.

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McArthur Binion at Lehmann Maupin Related Press McArthur Binion at Lehmann Maupin 1 March 2019, Art in America

The ten paintings in McArthur Binion's show (all 2017 or 2018) were from a series called 'Hand:Work.' In one sense, the title is literal: a photographic image of the artist's hand recurs throughout the paintings, serving as a building block and a serial motif.

Fade out copy.
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