BY B. David Zarley in Reviews | 29 OCT 20

McArthur Binion’s ‘Data-Driven’ Design

At Richard Gray Warehouse, Chicago, the artist explores the concrete and unconscious markers of his identity 

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BY B. David Zarley in Reviews | 29 OCT 20

There is an obvious level of painstaking labour that goes into the works presented in ‘DNA:Work and the Under:Conscious Drawings’, McArthur Binion’s first solo show at Richard Gray’s warehouse space in Chicago. True to its name, the series ‘DNA:Work’ (2019–20) comprises minimalist tableaux featuring near-microscopic details: tiny pictorial elements meticulously arranged across delicate oil-stick grids in a range of colours. Viewed up close, complex patterns emerge from these geometric compositions. Collaged onto the surface of the paperboard are pages from the artist’s address book, peering through a matrix of violets and magentas or a forest of greens. In two separate black and white works, what look to be woven fields of fresh-fire ash are greyscale snippets of, in one work, the artist’s birth certificate and, in the other, images of Binion’s low-slung, childhood home in Macon, Mississippi.

McArthur Binion, DNA:Work, 2019, ink, oil stick on paper board, 182.9 × 121.9 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago.
McArthur Binion, DNA:Work, 2019, ink, oil stick on paper board, 182.9 × 121.9 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago

‘DNA:Work’ brings new meaning to data-driven design, creating a compound and systematic visual vocabulary of selfhood and biography. Leaving the grids behind, ‘Under:Conscious’ (2014), a less immediately arresting series of works on paper, focuses on the very material of the drawings themselves and the introspective practice of mark making. Here, Binion’s media – graphite, charcoal, coloured pencil and pen – take centre stage, his marks roughly contained in amoebic ovals: masses of even strokes applied ambidextrously (a skill the artist developed to avoid hand fatigue) across a range of cold to hot colours. In Under:Conscious Drawing VII (2014), for example, slivers of purple, blue and black build into an amorphous form, its loose lines resembling the friction ridges of a fingerprint.

McArthur Binion, Under:Conscious: Drawing VII, 2014, colored pencil on paper, 133.4 × 133.4 cm. Courtesy: the artists and Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago.
McArthur Binion, Under:Conscious: Drawing VII, 2014, coloured pencil on paper, 133.4 × 133.4 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago

With its evident markers of humanity – personal records, images of the artist’s home – ‘DNA:Works’ may be the more readily relatable of the two series, and certainly leaves a lasting impression. ‘Under:Conscious’, however, sees Binion striving to lay bare the depths of his subconscious mind.

McArthur Binion's ‘DNA:Work and the Under:Conscious Drawings’ at Richard Gray Warehouse, Chicago, runs until 31 October 2020.

Main image: McArthur Binion 'DNA:Work and the Under:Conscious Drawings', exhibition view. Courtesy: the artist and Richard Gray Warehouse, Chicago

B. David Zarley is a freelance journalist, art/book critic and essayist based in Chicago.

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