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Group Exhibition
Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)
220 East Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
November 10, 2012 - April 28, 2013

REVIEW from Sixty Inches From Center: Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black in White
by Rehema Barber

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Curator Naomi Beckwith’s latest exhibition, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, currently on view through April 28, is a dynamic and engaging mix of works from the MCA’s collection. Conceived from the examination of the formal, conceptual and sociopolitical ideas associated with the colors of black and white, the exhibition provides viewers with the opportunity to reflect upon their own attitudes toward and notions of these contrapositive shades. Composed of works that span from the likes of Jaume Plensa, the artist who created Chicago’s Millennium Park Crown Fountain (2004), to widely lauded photographer Barbara Kruger to native son and burgeoning art star Theaster Gates, the works offer a fresh perspective on the supposed values associated with black and white. The exhibition allows viewers the opportunity to contemplate how the works speak individually and cooperatively.

Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago; Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.


A work that I found quite provocative was Adam Brooks’ Strategy #1 (1990), which is a compilation of double-sided, black, industrially produced signage with white lettering that recalls office labels. Dispersed throughout the exhibition, the signs are not only one body of work, but in some ways also provide context for each section within Color Bind. Each side has one word and—depending upon the viewing angle—common euphemisms emerge, such as pyrrhic/victory, unnatural/bias, or groundless/criticism. Strategy #1 (1990) explores the complexity within the form and use of language and how its connotations can change by the simple addition of another term.

Installation view, Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, MCA Chicago; Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.


A key pairing of the exhibition, located within the entrance to the gallery, is Glenn Ligon’s White #11 (1994) and Imi Knoebel’s Untitled (Black Painting) (1990). Both works are approximately the same size, within the 48 x 72 inches range. Black envelopes the surfaces of both. Moreover, both pictorial planes feature specific markings that are representational of the artist’s interaction with, and purpose for, the canvas. They also display formal and informal qualities associated with abstractionism. Ligon, whose work is widely known for its basis in text, uses text in this painting to illustrate passages from an essay by Richard Dyer that explores representations of whiteness on film.


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Rehema Barber


(Image on top: Glenn Ligon, Untitled (Study #1 for Prisoner of Love), 1992 , Oil and gesso on canvas, 30 1/2 x 20 in. (77.5 x 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.)

Posted by Rehema Barber on 3/16/13 | tags: sculpture photography Sixty Inches from Center mixed-media black-and-white chicago

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