Kavi Gupta CHICAGO presents McArthur Binion Seasons | Roger Brown & Andy Warhol - Politics, Rhetoric, Pop
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Installation view, McArthur Binion, Seasons, 2016
Courtesy of the artist and Kavi Gupta
Kavi Gupta | 835 W. Washington Blvd.
September 17–November 22, 2016
Saturday, September 17, 4–7 pm
Kavi Gupta is proud to present McArthur Binion's next show at the gallery: McArthur Binion: Seasons, which debuts two major new series by the artist, Seasons and Honey.
To be seasoned is to be experienced—seeing the benefits of knowledge gained over times distill in one’s work. For McArthur Binion, committed to the tension of colors both art-historical and racial, the seasons and decades have infused his practice. Binion’s paintings are suffused with reference: his 1946 birth to a farming family in rural Macon, MS; their 1951 move to Detroit; New York City’s art world after his move there in 1973. Though firmly aligned with minimalist sensibilities, countryside architectures also underlay Binion’s 1970s works, as his “Circuit Landscapes” trace loose grids and planar divisions on their canvas surfaces. Exhibited in the influential Artists Space in 1973, the year of its incorporation, Binion’s paintings demonstrated his refined exploration of contemporary minimalist forms as “rural geometries.” His laborious process of forging lines with crayon involves a physicality that recalls both the agricultural and, later, factory labor of his family; through the 1980s, his grids diffused into crosshatched segments of line like overhead fields.
In Seasons, these stubborn crosshatches, which served to blur and distort both their weave and the photocopied numbers and names behind them (gleaned from Binion’s personal address book of 1970s New York), have given way to the grid. This form neither erases nor highlights the underlying materials—such a belated application of the high-modernist, high-minimalist icon has thickened Binion’s work.
Though one might not call his paintings pathos-laden, the personal relationships subtending Binion’s simple grids prove a sharp divergence from the majority of coeval American minimalist work. The grids, themselves a result of intensive labor, are underlaid by the emotional weight of his collected addresses. Binion thus situates himself within the troubled relationship of minimalist art to its creators. In her memoir Feelings are Facts, Yvonne Rainer argues that minimalist artists censored the personal in art at inverse proportions to the turbulence of their private lives. Binion sidesteps this dilemma by incorporating his personal relationships as the heart of his formalism, and foils any curious gossipers.
Over seasons Binion uses the same address, photocopied hundreds of times, such that it becomes a new background at each layering—relationships thus exist as nets and weaves behind his work. Binion employs objective production methods (photocopies and seriality) that cover highly subjective ones, a method given its sharpest articulation yet below the iconic grid.
In the gallery’s project space, Binion’s Honey series extends his line of inquiry. He fills his grids with images of himself as a child and photos of his mother, nicknamed Honey, recalling his older Self Portraits. Honey takes center stage here, as the repetitive works also evoke the sweet honeycombs of familiarity. For Binion, history is never far away.
Binion’s Seasons hearkens to minimalism while hinting at narrative, providing the place and time for stories to emerge. Weathering his work with measured strokes, Binion’s new paintings seem to have returned to us in their most distilled and embryonic form.
Roger Brown & Andy Warhol
Politics, Rhetoric, Pop
Kavi Gupta | 219 N. Elizabeth St.
September 23–November 22, 2016
Friday, September 23, 6–9 pm
Penning a list of pop artists including Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and himself, Roger Brown writes in the 1980 Who Chicago? that “what is shared is attitude and not style.” Brown’s admiration for—and aesthetic affiliation with—Warhol’s work positions him far beyond the superfluity of purely regionalist designations. Like many pop artists, Brown interrogated popular imagery, politics, and the role of the periphery in constructing centered narratives of art and culture, using a vocabulary of vibrant interpretations of popular media imagery. Juxtaposing Brown and Warhol provides opportunities for rethinking the scope of pop art, which takes cues from a diverse array of aesthetic traditions and conceptual techniques.
Warhol exemplifies seriality in twentieth-century art. With repetitious, industrialized production methods, Warhol incorporated the logic of postwar production into the classical atelier. Hal Foster observes that this “serial structure integrates [pop], like no other art before, into our systematic world of serial objects, images, people.” The consistency of architectural forms and anonymized, ordered figures in Brown’s oeuvre testifies to a similar reflection on “our systematic world.” Brown visualized Warhol’s industrial techniques as deeply imbricated in our private lives. Pop art serves, at least partially, to show how our sense of narrative has been fundamentally altered by the rise of serial, modular forms in midcentury industries.
Both established commercial artists, Warhol and Brown were preoccupied by advertising and its proximity to political icons; their paintings record the seriality, banality, and terror latent in popular imagery. By showcasing similar techniques at play within both Brown and Warhol’s art, Roger Brown & Andy Warhol: Politics, Rhetoric, Pop broadens our understanding of pop art while re-examining one of Chicago’s best known artists.
Brown’s ominous California Cloud Surprise (1993) flattens the iconic Mickey Mouse into an inevitability, a feature of our terrain as natural as the weather. Front-page political issues meet adversing copy on the same plane of painting as in Brown’s hands, George H.W. Bush and Saddam Hussein are frozen as monoliths in Gulf War (1991); Warhol’s 1964 Jackie similarly isolates the political celebrity in a paean to disaster that almost anonymized its icon. Brown’s wry landscapes become Warhol’s star studded psychological topography.
Both Brown and Warhol were passionate collectors, whose practices were informed by the images and objects they surrounded themselves with—and sometimes replicated. Sotheby’s six volume The Andy Warhol Collection, made for his estate sale in 1988, was the largest catalogue published in the auction house’s history. An obsessive collector, Warhol amassed and serialized objects just as he proliferated images, decisively cataloging popular aesthetics of postwar America. Brown, too, held extensive collections, though more singleminded in focus. His folk art, objects, and archival materials, now housed at the Roger Brown Study Collection (Chicago) and the Roger Brown residency (Michigan), situate the artist within a world of vernacular forms indispensable to the making of fine art.
Though he eschewed the mechanized aesthetics of New York’s pop artists, Brown employed similar techniques, both conceptual and aesthetic, in his art. Wielded by Warhol and Brown, popular culture becomes unflaggingly sharp, and skewers both ways. In 1987, Brown said of his work, “you put yourself on the line.” There might be no keener articulation of the artistic, personal, and ethical risks of being pop artists and painters of modern life.
For further information please contact the gallery at info@KaviGupta.com.
Kavi Gupta CHICAGO | WASHINGTON BLVD
835 W. Washington Blvd
Chicago, IL 60607
Kavi Gupta CHICAGO | ELIZABETH ST
219 N. Elizabeth St.
Chicago, IL 60607