This year at Frieze New York, Lehmann Maupin (E6) will present a thematic booth featuring the work of McArthur Binion, Shirazeh Houshiary, and Cecilia Vicuña. The three artists share in common an exploration of language and communication as a unifying element of their diverse practices. Together, the Mississippi-born, Chicago-based Binion, the Iranian-born, London-based Houshiary, and the Chilean-born, New York-based Vicuña, offer decades of insight from a cross-cultural perspective, inviting consideration of how one’s worldview is shaped by language, and how communication can serve as both a bridge and a barrier.
McArthur Binion (b. 1946, Macon, MS; lives and works in Chicago) combines collage, drawing, and painting to create autobiographical abstractions of painted minimalist patterns over a surface of personal documents and photographs. Photocopies of his birth certificate, pages from his address book, his passport photos, newspaper clippings, and family photographs constitute the tiled base of his works, over which he layers grids of oil stick. The complexly layered works, from a distance, appear to be monochromatic minimalist abstractions, however Binion’s works are intensely personal and deeply dedicated to the rigorous process of making a painting. Upon closer inspection, these monochromatic abstractions come into focus: The perfect grid becomes a series of imperfect, laboriously hand-drawn lines, revealing intimate details of Binion’s identity and personal history, though never enough to be immediately legible. Having begun his career as a writer, Binion is highly influenced by language and music, which can be seen in his titles and the ways he layers information to be “read” rather than simply seen. The tension that exists between the grid and the artist’s visible gestures is not unlike that of jazz music that merges improvisation with the order of a musical composition.
Shirazeh Houshiary (b. 1955, Iran; lives and works in London) makes painting, sculpture, and animation that seek to challenge viewers’ perceptions of time, space, and materiality. Her works often engage opposing ideas and states of being, including transparency and opacity, sound and silence, energy and inertia, and light and darkness. Houshiary’s painting technique involves the successive layering of pigment and line, a laborious process that often takes several months to complete. Her surfaces are composed of intricate patterns that appear to pulse, undulate, and recede into the canvas, like a veil or membrane. She takes a similarly methodical approach to her dynamic sculptures, constructing a tower out of glass or aluminum bricks that, layer by layer, seem to emerge from the floor. Each vertical plane of bricks echoes the original shape of the footprint incrementally rotated to the maximum degree the form will allow before the resulting helix shape becomes unstable. For each work, Houshiary attempts to visualize subjects that are inherently intangible—an echo, human breath, or memory. Formal elements of Renaissance painting can be found in Houshiary’s work through composition, rhythm, structure, and depiction of light. Her work is also closely aligned with Middle Eastern and Islamic art traditions in her use of pattern, repetition, and intricate markings.
Cecilia Vicuña (b. 1948, Santiago, Chile; lives and works in New York and Santiago) integrates practices of poetry, performance, conceptualism, and textile craft in response to pressing concerns of the modern world, including ecological destruction, human rights, and cultural homogenization. Born and raised in Santiago, she was exiled during the early 1970s after the violent military coup against President Salvador Allende. This sense of impermanence and a desire to preserve and pay tribute to the indigenous history and culture of Chile have characterized her work throughout her career. Vicuña is the author of 20 volumes of art and poetry published in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America. Her filmography includes documentaries, animation, and visual poems.