A private geometry: McArthur Binion and Sol LeWitt at De Carlo Gallery, Milan

Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawings (1928-2007), by themselves, justify visiting the new exhibition the Milanese gallery Massimo De Carlo dedicates to the great minimalist artist, in dialogue with his colleague McArthur Binion (b.1946).

This is an exhibition that we could define as a “museological” jewel. After all, the quality of the works on display is enormous, and it is not every day that we can see two important names together in a “private” space like that of Casa Corbellini Wassermann, De Carlo’s Italian headquarters.

Binion’s Altar (2020) is stunning, created for the solo show at Florence’s Museo del Novecento last year, and now re-exhibited. Nearly four metres high by three metres wide, originally conceived as an altar pall, the large “canvas” is formed from the dismembered address book the artist used in the 1970s, fitted into thousands of squares traced in oil pastel.

McArthur Binion shares with LeWitt the use of geometry. But in his case, the “grid” is defined – in the artist’s words – as an under conscious situation, capable of transforming into abstract pieces of personal life: photographs, portraits, telephone numbers, even a birth certificate. It is a metaphorical process to allow his African-American identity to officially enter the “art chess”. It is no accident that, in 2019, Binion created the Modern Ancient: Brown foundation in Detroit to support and encourage the creative expressions of minorities.

Binion and LeWitt want to free painting from its boundaries. While LeWitt expands on the environment, challenging architecture, Binion builds architectural organs to contain it.

Binion uses his DNA – the name of the series of works exhibited at the Massimo De Carlo gallery – while LeWitt wants to eliminate the idea of authorship by imposing basic rules on those who make his wall paintings. A perfect example of this creative modality is Wall Drawing #387 from 1981: the artist presents a pre-established list of linear symbols to be used; however, their number and position at the moment of creation of the work are chosen by whoever executes the process.

But being from New York is one of the factors that unite LeWitt and Binion’s artistic traits: LeWitt’s 1991 work, Horizontal Progression, is a large white sculpture focused on the primitive architectural structure of the ziggurat as a model of modern urbanism – typical of the “Big Apple” development from the 1910s onwards, the subject of an article by the artist in 1966. According to this “grid”, how can we avoid seeing the streets and avenues of Manhattan in Binion’s surfaces?

Apparently disconnected, the artists’ works in the gallery rooms reveal a much more hermetic dialogue than we might imagine.

Although the creators want to “disappear” and remain “anonymous” in favour of their creations, LeWitt and Binion’s minimalist and conceptual art is personal and allows a universal story to be told, beyond linear language. The geometry is a profound abstraction.

McArthur Binion – Sol LeWitt is on until 15 January 2022 at Massimo De Carlo gallery, viale Lombardia 17, Milan.

Matteo Bergamini is a journalist and art critic. He’s the Director of the Italian magazine and also a collaborator in the weekly journal D La Repubblica. Besides journalist he’s also the editor and curator of several books, such as Un Musée après, by the photographer Luca Gilli, Vanilla Edizioni, 2018; Francesca Alinovi (with Veronica Santi), by Postmedia books, 2019; Prisa Mata. Diario Marocchino, by Sartoria Editoriale, 2020. The lattest published book is L'involuzione del pensiero libero, 2021, also by Postmedia books. He’s the curator of the exhibitions Marcella Vanzo. To wake up the living, to wake up the dead, at Berengo Foundation, Venezia, 2019; Luca Gilli, Di-stanze, Museo Diocesano, Milan, 2018; Aldo Runfola, Galeria Michela Rizzo, Venezia, 2018, and the co-curator of the first, 2019 edition of BienNoLo, the peripheries biennial, in Milan. He’s a professor assistant in several Fine Arts Academies and specialized courses. Lives and works in Milan, Italy.

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