Perspectives 177: McArthur Binion is the Houston debut for this Chicago-based, mid-career painter and the artist’s first solo museum exhibition. For this exhibition, Binion has created a new body of work that extends his visual narrative through color and geometric form. Decidedly minimal, Binion’s work embodies a strong intellect rooted in the expressive capabilities of color and abstraction. His luminous hybrid paintings are comprised of wax-based crayons pressed onto shaped wood and aluminum panels. The tactility of the painting as well as the integration of paper collage onto its surface offers a complexity to Binion’s process that is deeply devoted to the narrative of the work’s making.
Born the eleventh child to a family living in rural Mississippi, the artist’s visual narrative chronicles his family’s transition from tenant farmers to factory workers in the industrial automobile capital of Detroit. Subdued by sepia ink, the images of his childhood home, rural landscape, and self-portraits are ghost images that offer a counterweight to the lush, monochromatic, obsessively formed works created from pressing wax-based crayons onto the painting’s surface. While Binion’s obsessive mark-making can be read as a pure exploration into materiality, the use of the crayon as medium renders a critique to the history of painting and the ability to transform the ordinary“child’s medium” into a tool that can render complex studies of color and light.
In his use of the monochrome, Binion’s early work was often contextualized as a contemporary extension of the Minimalist practices of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The artist, however, has resisted this notion; Binion has consistently contended that he is less interested in the reductive practices of painting. Instead, he is preoccupied with the expressive capabilities of abstraction. Binion uses color and form as narrative, and process as signifier. Using his hands as tools, the artist literally presses small measures of crayon onto wooden panel supports. The process of creating a painting is a laborious and painstaking one that is more akin to conceptual or performance art than painting. While Binion’s work–born out of obsessive, repetitive motion–reads like a contemporary interpretation of Jackson Pollock’s action paintings, the artist’s process is more reflective of his southern, rural upbringing. The act of using his hands, Binion recalls, is reminiscent of his childhood: “The same hands, which bled picking cotton as a child, now bleed from the abrasion of colored wax on wood.”