Chicago gallery features artworks by McArthur Binion

artworks by McArthur Binion

McArthur Binion, ‘DNA:Work,’ 2020, ink, oil paint stick and paper on board, 72 × 48in. Gray image

CHICAGO – Gray will present “DNA:Work” and the “Under:Conscious Drawings,” the gallery’s first exhibition with McArthur Binion. Debuting eight paintings and seven drawings from the artist’s “DNA:Work and Under:Conscious” series, the exhibition opens with a public reception for the artist on Friday, April 17, from 6-8 p.m. at Gray Warehouse in Chicago.

McArthur Binion’s “DNA:Work” paintings use geometry as an index of labor and time, repurposing the Minimalist grid as a vehicle for examining a deeply personal narrative. At a distance, the paintings present as vivid, geometric patterns demarcated by an oil-stick grid. Upon closer inspection, each composition reveals a substrate of tightly collaged images and reproductions of personal documents including pages from the artist’s phone book, his birth certificate and photographs of his childhood home in Macon, Mississippi. Binion refers to this layer of images as the “under-conscious: the character just under the surface, close to the skin.”

As art critic and poet John Yau describes, Binion’s DNA paintings are “deeper than autobiography … [his] formal mastery, his ability to wring so many possibilities out of his direct and straightforward labor, permeates the works with layers of meaning, beginning with his challenge to the idea that art could be objective and pure, that it could exist in a separate aesthetic realm untainted by life.”

In addition to the paintings in the DNA:Work series, the exhibition debuts a series of works on paper, titled the “Under:Conscious Drawings.” Binion began the series in 2014 as a means of accessing the roots of his practice. Using graphite, charcoal, colored pencil and pen, Binion’s drawings are composed of evenly distributed marks applied simultaneously with both hands. In a conversation with Binion, artist Torkwase Dyson expands on this physical and mental exertion.

“[Binion’s drawings] convey a level of concentration that can only come from using everything [the] body is made of,” said Dyson. “[They] have an Agnes Martin level of concentration with a Cy Twombly kind of labor of mark-making.” In Binion’s own words, “I’m not discovering the under-conscious, I’m becoming it.”

Gray has also announced the release of a forthcoming publication featuring detailed illustrations of the exhibition as well as a transcribed conversation between McArthur Binion and Torkwase Dyson.