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McArthur Binion

In a career spanning four decades, McArthur Binion (b. 1946, Macon, Mississippi, USA) has gained recognition as an artist, writer and teacher. He became the first African American to obtain a master’s degree in fine arts in painting from Cranbrook Academy of Art (1973) and also holds a degree in creative writing. These dual passions – words and images – define his life and work to this day. After graduating, Binion moved to New York and immersed himself in the city’s vibrant creative scene, then dominated by minimalism and Pop Art. Friends with artists such as Brice Marden and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Binion pursued an artistic career and accepted the first of several notable teaching positions. Moving to Chicago in 1991, he became Professor of Art at Columbia College in 1993. In 2013, he rediscovered the address book that he’d maintained during his twenty-year stay in New York and began exploring its creative potential. Typically executed in oil-stick, his work draws upon the traditions of minimalism (the grid arrangement, serial gestures) whilst also being a form of self-portraiture. Underneath the precise and methodical markings lie photocopied pages with intimate details of Binion’s own life ranging from photos of his childhood home to his birth certificate and charged found photographs, such as those depicting the violence of lynching in America. Binion refers to this layer as the ‘under conscious’ or ‘substrate’, the details of which only become legible when standing close to the painting. Viewers are thus compelled to alter their viewing positions, shifting between the microscopic detail (words) and the bigger picture (image).

McArthur Binion lives and works in Chicago. His works were featured prominently in the 57th Venice Biennale, VIVA ARTE VIVA. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organised at Museo Novecento, Florence, Italy (2020); the Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI (2018); the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, TX (2012). Binion’s work is in numerous public and private collections and his most recent venture is the Modern Ancient Brown Foundation that provides funding and workspaces to help young visual artists and writers of colour find their voices.

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Selected Images

  • Modern:Ancient:Brown, 2021

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  • DNA: Study: Voorlinden
    Collection museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar, The Netherlands, 2020

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  • dna:study, 2020

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  • Modern Ancient Brown
    Modern Ancient Brown, Museo Novocento, Florence, Italy, 2020

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  • healing:work, 2020

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  • DNA:Study, 2019

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  • dna:study, 2020

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  • route one: box two (paper), 2018

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  • DNA:Study, 2019

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  • ink: work: iii, 2018

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  • white: painting: ii, 2018

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  • VIVA ARTE VIVA, 57th Venice Biennale
    Venice, Italy, 2017

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  • Binion/Saarinen: A McArthur Binion Project
    Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI, USA, 2018

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  • Hand:Work, 2017

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  • DNA: Sepia: VII, 2016

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  • Self: Portrait: c, 2015

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  • DNA: Black Painting: Ph Bk / B Cert: I, 2015

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  • DNA Study: IX, 2014

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  • DNA: Study: Zero, 2014

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  • Prospect 3. Notes for Now
    Contemporary Art Center New Orleans, LA, USA, 2014

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  • Under In: And Out of Violet, 1978-1979

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  • History: Of: Application: One, 1978

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  • Icecicle: Juice, 1976

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  • Rutabaga: In the Sky, 1978-1979

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Exhibitions

Publications

  • McArthur Binion
    DNA

    text by Grace Deveney, Franklin Sirmans, Michael Stone Richards, published by Diana Nawi, 2020, 192 pages, English

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  • McArthur Binion
    Re:Mine

    text by Lowery Stokes Sims and Franklin Sirmans, published by Black Dog Publishing Limited, London, UK, 2015, 84 pages, English

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