McArthur Binion (b. 1946) has maintained an engaging and historic artistic practice that spans over forty years. Sourcing narratives of an African American experience in rural America and his presence in the white-dominated heyday of American Modernism in New York City, Binion has developed a unique style of action painting which places personal memory in dialogue with visual elements of Modernism.
Binion combines collage, drawing, and painting to create autobiographical abstractions of painted minimalist patterns over an “under conscious” of personal documents and photographs. From photocopies of his birth certificate and pages from his address book to pictures from his childhood and found photographs of lynchings, the poignant and charged images that constitute the tiled base of his work are concealed and abstracted by grids of oil stick. The complexly layered works, from a distance, appear to be monochromatic minimalist abstractions however; Binion’s works are intensely personal and deeply dedicated to the rigorous process of making a painting.
Upon closer inspection, these monochromatic abstractions come into focus: the perfect grid becomes a series of imperfect laboriously hand-drawn lines, behind which emerge intimate details of Binion’s identity and personal history. Having begun his career as a writer, Binion is highly influenced by language and music, as can be seen in his titles and the ways in which he layers information to be “read” rather than simply seen.
Binion received his BFA from Wayne State University, Detroit, MI in 1971 and his MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI in 1973. Binion’s works were featured prominently in the 57th Venice Biennale, VIVA ARTE VIVA, curated by Christine Macel.
His work is in numerous public and private collections, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, NY, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, NY, the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY, the Cranbrook Museum of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI, the Detroit Institute of Art in Detroit, MI, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
A brief bibliography for McArthur Binion
McArthur Binion in conversation. Whether philosopher or artist, psycho-analyst or poet, often the most insightful introduction to the complex thought of a distinctive mind comes in the form of conversations with that thinker. McArthur has many stories to tell and insights to share from an eventful lifetime.
Judy Pfaff, “An Oral History with McArthur Binion,” Bomb (May 15, 2022), online at https://bombmagazine.org/articles/an-oral-history-with-mcarthur-binion/
“Everybody I Ever Met: A Conversation between McArthur Binion and Franklin Sirmans,” in McArthur Binion: DNA, ed. Diana Nawi (New York: DelMonico Books and DAP, 2021), 23-33.
McArthur Binion with David Rhodes, “I didn’t come from art history, I landed there,” Brooklyn Rail (September, 2021), online at https://brooklynrail.org/2021/09/art/McArthur-Binion-with-David-Rhodes
Loney Abrams, “ ‘I Made Myself Up!’: Painter McArthur Binion on Forging his own Path in a White Art World,” Artspace (Nov 4, 2016), online at https://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/qa/in-a-predominately-white-art-world-mcarthur-binion-had-to-make-himself-up-to-succeed-54340
For an excellent and accessible overview of McArthur’s practice, see the recent monograph: Diana Nawi, ed. McArthur Binion: DNA (New York: DelMonico Books and DAP, 2021) - with contributions by Grace Deveney, Franklin Sirmans, and Michael Stone-Richards.