So many people have become captivated by the minimalist abstract paintings of McArthur Binion, but he is also an inspiration for me and countless others with the ways he’s dedicated to serving as an educator and mentor and seeks to lift up the next generation of Black artists. Though he found success later on in his career, he’s proven that all artists have the incredible ability to use their voices and platforms to give others a chance to be recognized as well, and he’s a great example of an individual who believes in opening up opportunities for others to rise.
Binion has been working as an artist since the early 1970’s. After moving from Macon, Mississippi with his family at age 4, he grew up in Detroit, Michigan with his 10 brothers and sisters. He later enrolled at Wayne State University to study creative writing and poetry, but eventually dropped out to move to New York City. While he was there, Binion paid a visit to the Museum of Modern Art as part of his job at a publication. He was moved by the work of abstract expressionist artists and re-enrolled in school to study drawing. He went on to become one of the first Black artists to graduate from Cranbrook Academy of Art’s distinguished MFA program.
Binion has taught art at Columbia College in Chicago since 1993, and he maintains a studio practice in the city. After being represented by Lehmann Maupin, Binion’s work has reached wider audiences and has been shown as part of solo shows in Hong Kong, Seoul, and New York, as well as at art fairs including Switzerland’s Art Basel and London’s Frieze. He also currently has a painting in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
In 2019, Binion established the Modern Ancient Brown Foundation to support Detroit’s emerging artists with grants, residency programs, and seminars. Its Studio Residency Program is actually launching this fall, and I can’t wait to see the talented artists that are going to be mentored and influenced by Binion’s instruction, knowledge, and artistic vision. He exemplifies what it means to be a teacher, artist, and a master in his field, and he’s one of my favorite working artists who sets a new standard for excellence and leadership.