Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White is the first collection-based exhibition curated by Naomi Beckwith, whose new title is Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago
Works of art using a single color has been a major strategy for artists throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, from Ad Reinhardts mid-century black paintings to Imi Knoebels contemporary forms that attempt to imagine infinitude. Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White, which runs from November 10, 2012 to April 28, 2013, investigates the museums rich collection through one of art historys basic formal lenses: the use of the colors black and white.
Color Bind looks broadly at the MCA Collection to show how color can be used literally, formally, and metaphorically in art, and to reveal how formal considerations are often rooted in social issues. Many artists represented in the exhibition, such as Robert Ryman, 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.
Beyond these formal aspects, artists such as Richard Serra and Félix Gonzáles Torres use minimal color tones as a critical take on arts 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 19th-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 Bruce Nauman and Barbara Kruger use text to demonstrate how basic language can be co-opted into polemics, or black-and-white forms of discourse.
With a variety of works in all media, Color Bind considers the ways that the words black and white evoke both simple formal notions and metaphors for race, politics, and historical movements. Set to coincide with the US elections, this exhibition calls attention to the ways seemingly impartial formal terms assume moral dimensions that, in turn, complicate and politicize the very works assumed to be neutral.