Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White

Images

Glenn Ligon, Untitled (Study #1 for Prisoner of Love), 1992. Oil and gesso on canvas; 30 ½ x 20 in. (77.5 × 50.8 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Sandra P. and Jack Guthman, 2000.11. © Glenn Ligon 1992/Regen Projects, Los Angeles. Photo © MCA Chicago.
Kara Walker, Presenting Negro Scenes Drawn Upon My Passage through the South and Reconfigured for the Benefit of Enlightened Audiences Wherever Such May Be Found, By Myself, Missus K.E.B. Walker, Colored, 1997. Paper and watercolor on paper; 13 × 150 ft. (4 × 45.7 m). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Susan and Lewis Manilow, 1999.52. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Jim Shaw, Untitled (from the aestheticized disaster series), 1991–92. Graphite on paper; 13 parts, each: 16 ¾ x 13 5/8 in. (42.5 × 34.6 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Lannan Foundation, 1997.51.1–13. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (We construct the chorus of missing persons), 1983. Gelatin silver mural prints with painted artist’s frame; overall: 121 7/8 × 72 7/8 × 2 in. (309.6 × 185.1 × 5.1 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, restricted gift of Paul and Camille Oliver-Hoffmann, 1984.22.a–c. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (The End), 1990. Offset prints on paper; 22 × 28 × 22 in. (55.9 × 71.1 × 55.9 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, restricted gift of Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz, Bernice and Kenneth Newberger Fund, 1995.111. © The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation, courtesy of Andrea Rosen Gallery. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Kerry James Marshall, Cub Scout, 1995. Acrylic and mixed media on canvas mounted on board; 34 ½ x 34 ½ in. (87.6 × 87.6 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of the Susan and Lewis Manilow Collection of Chicago Artists, 2003.31. © 1995 Kerry James Marshall. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Jim Shaw, Untitled (from the aestheticized disaster series), 1991–92. Graphite on paper; 13 parts, each: 16 ¾ x 13 5/8 in. (42.5 × 34.6 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Lannan Foundation, 1997.51.1–13. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Jim Shaw, Untitled (from the aestheticized disaster series), 1991–92. Graphite on paper; 13 parts, each: 16 ¾ x 13 5/8 in. (42.5 × 34.6 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Lannan Foundation, 1997.51.1–13. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Jim Shaw, Untitled (from the aestheticized disaster series), 1991–92. Graphite on paper; 13 parts, each: 16 ¾ x 13 5/8 in. (42.5 × 34.6 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Lannan Foundation, 1997.51.1–13. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Jim Shaw, Untitled (from the aestheticized disaster series), 1991–92. Graphite on paper; 13 parts, each: 16 ¾ x 13 5/8 in. (42.5 × 34.6 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Lannan Foundation, 1997.51.1–13. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Jim Shaw, Untitled (from the aestheticized disaster series), 1991–92. Graphite on paper; 13 parts, each: 16 ¾ x 13 5/8 in. (42.5 × 34.6 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Lannan Foundation, 1997.51.1–13. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Jim Shaw, Untitled (from the aestheticized disaster series), 1991–92. Graphite on paper; 13 parts, each: 16 ¾ x 13 5/8 in. (42.5 × 34.6 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Lannan Foundation, 1997.51.1–13. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Kara Walker, Presenting Negro Scenes Drawn Upon My Passage through the South and Reconfigured for the Benefit of Enlightened Audiences Wherever Such May Be Found, By Myself, Missus K.E.B. Walker, Colored, 1997. Paper and watercolor on paper; 13 × 150 ft. (4 × 45.7 m). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Susan and Lewis Manilow, 1999.52. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Jim Shaw, Untitled (from the aestheticized disaster series), 1991–92. Graphite on paper; 13 parts, each: 16 ¾ x 13 5/8 in. (42.5 × 34.6 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Lannan Foundation, 1997.51.1–13. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

About

Producing artworks using a single color has been a major strategy for artists throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, from Kazimir Malevich’s early suprematism to Anish Kapoor’s contemporary forms that attempt to imagine infinitude. Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White investigates the museum’s rich permanent collection through one of art history’s basic formal lenses: the use of the colors black and white.

Color Bind looks broadly at the MCA Collection to survey how color can be used literally, formally, and metaphorically in art and to reveal how apparently formal considerations are often rooted in social issues. Many artists represented in the exhibition, such as Robert Ryman and Ad Reinhardt, significantly limit their palette or produce works of one color in order to explore and emphasize the most basic formal aspects of art making, such as line, color, and technique. Moving beyond such formalist meditations, artists such as Richard Serra and Félix Gonzáles-Torres employ minimal color tones as a critical take on art’s representational role. Other artists intentionally use specific techniques combined with a black-and-white palette as a method of introducing social and ethical dimensions into art practice. For instance, Raymond Pettibon, Marlene Dumas, and Howardena Pindell appropriate the inky form of newspapers and comic books as a way to comment on conflict and violence. Kara Walker adopts nineteenth-century silhouette forms to present racially exaggerated bodies, and Glenn Ligon, who does the same in his print series, also uses the monochrome canvas in his paintings as both a metaphor and a foil for depictions of race. Artists such as Richard Artschwager and Adam Brooks use text to demonstrate how basic language can be co-opted into polemics, or “black-and-white” forms of discourse.

With dozens of works in all media, Color Bind muses on the ways the English words “black” and “white” evoke both simple formal notions and metaphors for race, politics, and historical movements. Set to coincide with the recent US presidential election, this exhibition calls attention to the ways seemingly neutral formal terms assume moral dimensions that, in turn, complicate and politicize the very works assumed to be neutral.

This exhibition is organized by Naomi Beckwith, Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Installation Images

Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago, Nov 10, 2012–Apr 28, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago, Nov 10, 2012–Apr 28, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago, Nov 10, 2012–Apr 28, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago, Nov 10, 2012–Apr 28, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago, Nov 10, 2012–Apr 28, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago, Nov 10, 2012–Apr 28, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago, Nov 10, 2012–Apr 28, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago, Nov 10, 2012–Apr 28, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago, Nov 10, 2012–Apr 28, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago, Nov 10, 2012–Apr 28, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago, Nov 10, 2012–Apr 28, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago, Nov 10, 2012–Apr 28, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago, Nov 10, 2012–Apr 28, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago, Nov 10, 2012–Apr 28, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago, Nov 10, 2012–Apr 28, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago, Nov 10, 2012–Apr 28, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago, Nov 10, 2012–Apr 28, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Funding

Support for Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White is generously provided by The Pritzker Traubert Collection Exhibition Fund. Additional generous support is provided by Cari and Michael Sacks, and Dr. Anita Blanchard and Martin H. Nesbitt. MCA Chicago is a proud member of Museums in the Park and receives major support from the Chicago Park District.

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