McArthur Binion’s “DNA: Black Painting: 1”

McArthur Binion, "DNA: Black Painting: 1", 2015, Oil paint stick, graphite, and paper on board, 84 x 84 in, Director's Discretionary Fund, 2016

McArthur Binion, “DNA: Black Painting: 1”, 2015, Oil paint stick, graphite, and paper on board, 84 x 84 in, Director’s Discretionary Fund, 2016

Though Binion’s work shares many tenets with the canons of Modernism — and particularly Minimalism — he subverts the dominant rigid notions of the avant-garde by extracting images and rhythms from varied sources including personal narrative, jazz music, and memory. “The part I took from Minimalism,” Binion said, “is that you want to do your own stuff in your own image.” Equally important to Binion is the integration of personal “DNA,” which is evident in the choice of birth certificate and the long history of artistic colleagues, art world luminaries and friends, living and deceased, glimpsed in the pages of the address book.

Early on Binion found his way to abstraction via drawing the body. The process of applying the surface is laborious and time consuming, recalling the manual labor of his youth and its landscape. Binion has described this as “an intangible and performative approach to making art.” For Binion, abstraction is not a fixed code, but an immensely mutable system in which questions of identity, birth, and existence can be examined and resolved, or left open to mystery.

Binion’s new paintings continue his DNA series, begun in 2013. Identity and the artist’s history is inscribed in the paintings not only via the traces of birth certificates and names from his address book but also through the physicality of the painting process and proportions that mimic the artist’s body. In DNA: Black Painting: I, the painting is divided into four equal vertical parts, each width roughly corresponding to the width of the artist’s thin body. These strong verticals contrast with the vibration of grids and traces of the artist’s handwriting from the address book pages. The obsessive movements of the artist’s hand and the fluid motion of hand writing as well as the size of the painting define DNA in numerous ways. Asserting presence may be a given for many, but for Binion, and other African American artists of his generation, the artist’s presence and their experience was often defined by absence. For this reason, another symbol in Binion’s work is the inclusion of his own self portrait. The source of this image is a photograph from 1971. It is reproduced in both horizontal and vertical lines, in serial format, introducing personal and emotional data in the language of Minimalism.

Information via a 2015 press release from Galerie LeLong.

The Phillips Collects: Renee Stout

(Left) Renée Stout, Elegba (Spirit of the Crossroads), 2015 - 2019, mixed media, 39” x 17” x 13”  (Upper right) Renée Stout, Mannish Boy Arrives (for Muddy Waters), 2017, acrylic and latex on wood panel, 16” x 20” x 1.5”  (Lower right) Renée Stout, Escape Plan A, 2017, acrylic, varnish, and collage on wood panel, 10” x 10” x 1.5”

(Left) Renée Stout, Elegba (Spirit of the Crossroads), 2015 – 2019, mixed media, 39” x 17” x 13”
(Upper right) Renée Stout, Mannish Boy Arrives (for Muddy Waters), 2017, acrylic and latex on wood panel, 16” x 20” x 1.5”
(Lower right) Renée Stout, Escape Plan A, 2017, acrylic, varnish, and collage on wood panel, 10” x 10” x 1.5”

It is with great enthusiasm that we announce The Phillips Collection’s significant acquisition of three works by Renée Stout. This 3-part acquisition, a “Unit” in Duncan Phillips terms, is made possible through the Director’s discretionary fund and a gift of the artist and Hemphill Fine Arts.

“Best known for engaging the African American heritage, but also her personal history, Renee Stout is a visual storyteller par excellence,” said Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Phillips Collection, Vesela Stretenovic. “There is a lot of magic and ancestry spirits in her work, embodying self-expression and self-empowerment. As The Phillips Collection approaches its centennial in 2021, the recent acquisition of three works by this highly admired DC-based artist, marks a significant moment in the museum collecting staying true to its founder Duncan Phillips’s approach of acquiring an artist’s work in units.”

Renée Stout is a recipient of the Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award (2018), Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize (2012), David C. Driskell Prize (2010), a Joan Mitchell Award (2005), The Pollock Krasner Foundation Award (1991 & 1999), the Anonymous Was a Woman Award (1999), and The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (1993). Her work is included in such collections as The Africa Museum, Berg en Dal, Netherlands, The Baltimore Museum of Art, The High Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The National Gallery of Art, The San Francisco Museum of Fine Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, among others. Stout was the subject of the traveling exhibition “Tales of the Conjure Woman,” originating at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in 2013, a solo exhibition, “Funk Dreamscapes from the Invisible Parallel Universe” at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, WI in 2018 and “Church of the Crossroads: Renée Stout in the Belger Collection” at the Belger Center in Kansas City, MO in 2018.

The Phillips Collects: Simone Leigh

Simone Leigh, No Face (Crown Heights), 2018

Simone Leigh, No Face (Crown Heights), 2018, Terracotta, graphite ink, salt-fired porcelain, epoxy, 20 x 8 x 8 in., The Phillips Collection, Director’s Discretionary Fund, 2018

Simone Leigh (b. 1967, Chicago) creates exquisitely crafted ceramic sculptures informed by her ongoing exploration of black female subjectivity and ethnography. Through ceramics, Leigh references vernacular visual traditions from the Caribbean, the American South, and the African continent, as well as the black diasporic experience dating from the Middle Passage to the present. Vessels, cowrie shells, and busts are reoccurring forms, each making symbolic reference to the black body.

The faceless bust of No Face (Crown Heights) is encircled by a rosette featuring dozens of tiny, handcrafted ceramic roses. Leigh thinks of her sculptures as performative in the sense that she is “performing” the work of anonymous African potters (often women). The hollowness of the works is not meant to impart emptiness or anonymity, but rather the loss of authorship associated with African ceramics.

Leigh is the recipient of the prestigious 2018 Hugo Boss Prize.Her work is the collections of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Perez Art Museum, Miami; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, among others.

“I am so pleased to embrace this subtle and thought-provoking work by Simone Leigh for The Phillips Collection. The personal, hand-made quality of this mysterious object engages us with surprising intensity. I’m particularly glad that we continue to add to the number of women artists represented in the collection.” —Vradenburg Director and CEO Dorothy Kosinski