McArthur Binion: DNA:Work and the Under:Conscious Drawings

Thursday, Sep 10 – Oct 31, 2020
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GRAY Warehouse:
2044 W. Carroll Ave.
Chicago, IL 60612

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September 10 – October 31, 2020
Gray Warehouse, 2044 West Carroll Ave, Chicago
Gray is pleased to reopen to the public with 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 will be on view beginning Thursday, September 10, at Gray Warehouse in Chicago.

McArthur Binion’s painting series DNA:Work is an index of time, labor and identity, repurposing the Minimalist grid to examine a deeply personal narrative. Using the scale of his own body, Binion builds compositions from vivid, geometric patterns demarcated by an oil-stick grid. Up close, each painting reveals a substrate of tightly collaged and rhythmically arranged reproductions of personal documents—pages from the artist’s phone book, his birth certificate and photographs of his childhood home in Macon, Mississippi. Binion’s pared-down combination of color and form compresses a breadth of  influences—personal history, relationships, writing, and memory—all absorbed throughout a life dedicated to making. 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 DNA:Work paintings, the exhibition debuts a suite of works on paper titled the Under:Conscious Drawings. Binion created 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,” states 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 is pleased to release a special publication on the occasion of McArthur Binion's exhibition, DNA:Work and the Under:Conscious Drawings. The volume presents 40 color illustrations, including high-resolution details and images of the works in situ, as well as a transcribed conversation between McArthur Binion and New York-based artist Torkwase Dyson.


We look forward to welcoming you back to the gallery during our regular hours, Wednesday through Saturday, 10 AM – 5 PM, beginning Thursday, September 10. To ensure the safety of our visitors and staff, face masks are required for entry and social-distancing guidelines will be in effect. Appointments are encouraged.


Image: McArthur Binion, DNA:Work, 2020