Sanford Biggers's window installation Ago has a formal decorativeness that belies its provocative intentions. It combines a number of mediums (fabric, spray paint, wood, light boxes) and cultural references (quilt making, graffiti, Japanese woodblock prints, landscape painting) to put a twist on manifest destiny and America's coded—and not-so-coded—racial histories.
The starting point is a reference to a widely distributed 1863 picture of a runaway slave, Gordon, that showed his back heavily scarred by repeated whippings. Taken by the photographer William McPherson and his partner, Mr. Oliver, the image helped expose the horrors of slavery and has been credited with galvanizing the abolitionist movement. Continue reading >>
Memory lives in our bodies as well as our minds—something to consider when you look at McArthur Binion's solo show "Ghost: Rhythms" at Kavi Gupta. The paintings were made in New York in the 1970s, when the artist was in his 30s, but what's on view here feels like the work of a much older man. Born in 1946 in Mississippi, Binion spent his earliest years on his family's farm, where he started picking cotton at the age of four. He became the first African-American person to earn an MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art; after graduate school he headed to New York City, where he designed sets for the feminist playwright Ntozake Shange and collaborated with the artist David Hammons. Binion's own work was enough in tune with the times that reigning minimalists Sol LeWitt and Carl Andre included several of his paintings in a group show they curated for Artists Space. Continue Reading >>