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Tuesday, November 11, 2014


There is a driving force, a passion that moves artists to create.  This can be said of all artists but there are two that come to mind when I contemplate this; McArthur Binion and of course, Darryll Schiff.  McArthur was an art educator of mine in addition to being an internationally renowned painter.  McArthur's is well established in his 60s, his work appears in noteworthy institutions such as the Contemporary Arts Museum Huston, Studio Museum NYC, Detroit Institute of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Kavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago.

©McArthur Binion Detail on Birth of Colored: Four 2013
©McArthur Binion, Birth of Colored: Four 2013 at Kavi Gupta Gallery

McArthur's process stands out above other artists as his unique portrait requires painstaking work using photo-copied documents that include his birth certificate and address book from the 1970s.  This distinctly unique type of self portrait is achieved using shredded documents as collage materials that are  arranged in crosshatched tiles and placed in a grid on wooden panel.  The style this creates is expressively textured.  To compose this work McArthur goes beyond process art, and transitions into  labor.  The marks on these pieces incorporate crayon on panel and laser print collage.  When working with crayon, he presses the material down until it is completely used up. He applies this technique with each of his materials which  include crayon, oil stick, and ink on wood. 

©McArthur Binion, Studio 2014

  If you were to meet McArthur, you would see first hand the clear momentum he has as an artist. It was his work ethic and drive that made an impression on me as a student. Not only was his work physical to the point where it resembles manual labor, but Binion himself would explicitly encourage students to put art before all other aspects of life.  On numerous accounts he has told me, “Artists cannot have a job, a personal life and their art. They can only have two of the three, so if you need to support yourself at another job you cannot have a social life.”  He would further illustrate this with comments on his own life, “Art comes before your relationships, if you want to be a successful artists let your relationships suffer before your work.”  Binion also instructs artists to put art-making before art theory, written statements and self promotion tactics.  He firmly believes an outstanding body of work speaks for itself, and if you aren't good with words others will write them for you.  

©McArthur Binion DNA Study at Kavi Gupta Gallery 2014

  McArthur's personal history strongly influences the work he creates.  Binion's childhood goes beyond a rural upbringing. As a young boy he picked cotton in Mississippi before moving to Detroit.  McArthur describes himself now as a “Rural Modernist.”  His life journey is reflected in his art work, it has a lot to do with Mississippi and the move his family took to work in the automobile industry.   In one series of work he depicts things that grow in the ground that can be eaten, this includes “Digging Peanuts.”  His influences range from his personal experience to modernist painters he first came to know in his early 20s.  Influences include Mondrian and Wifredo Lam among others.  The way Binion creates art is less like painting and almost has more to do with performance, similar to the way people regard Jackson Pollock as a painter.  He is also inspired by West African Textiles, which comes out in his quilt-like modernist grids.  

©Darryll Schiff All Rights Reserved

  Darryll Schiff has an entirely different process with his photographic body of work, but the drive to always develop new projects is evident in his everyday life.  Fine art photography is a passionate obsession, always on the back of Darryll's mind even outside of his studio. He keeps on hand with him a number of smaller cameras to photograph apt. moments in life as sketches for larger projects while he develops ideas to communicate about life, society and the world around him. Darryll is a great thinker who finds inspiration consistently throughout various aspects in life.  
©Darryll Schiff All Rights Reserved

Darryll's  photos are not typically staged, the subjects are often everyday people carrying about their lives.  What Darryll has an eye for is the right locations, lighting and behavior in those surrounding him.  He photographs several bodies of work at once and is careful to edit each series in a way that further expresses his ideas. Darryll has an instinct to focus equally on both his subject and the technical execution of his photographs. He has a system when photographing and editing that achieves his desired effects.  The work comes first from an emotional place and then extends into a concept that is carried out masterfully in composition and style. 

©McArthur Binion, Birth of Colored: One 2013 at Kavi Gupta Gallery
©Darryll Schiff All Rights Reserved
  It is the work ethic and originality that elevates both Darryll and McArthur as artists.  The devotion of these artists goes beyond scheduled hours of studio work, it is the force within them as creators that is both gravitating and gratifying when pushing them in all other aspects of life.  Their art is a labor that defines them, who they are, what they see, all they know.  It is inspiring, it gives them power that each observer can feel.  The power of art. 

 - Lauren Ike