Gray is pleased to announce McArthur Binion & Jules Allen: Me and You, a two-person exhibition featuring eleven new paintings by McArthur Binion and a survey of gelatin silver prints by New York-based photographer Jules Allen.

Me and You commemorates a forty-year dialogue between the two artists, whose mutual admiration originated in the Black avant-garde of 1980s New York City. Absorbing visual, musical, and poetic influences throughout their careers, both artists pair visual clarity and formal rigor with deeply psychological and emotional content.

McArthur Binion’s new series of paintings, titled Handmadeness, delve fully into the lexicon of what Binion terms the underconscious: visual markers of his identity collaged in a repeating, interwoven grid. These images in the paintings’ ground layer span a range of sources, from the deeply personal and autobiographical to the public and political. From the former category, Binion uses facsimiles of his birth certificate and his address book, as well as photographs of himself, his hand, and of his father and mother.

Discernible segments from a musical score Binion commissioned by the Pulitzer-prize-winning composer and saxophonist Henry Threadgill point to the critical role that music and improvisation have played in Binion’s work. Of the latter category is a detail from a photograph published in a 1930s newspaper of a lynching in Marion, Indiana, the dissemination of which confronted the nation with the reality of racial violence. Customary to his practice, Binion obscures the underconscious with washes of ink in novel color combinations and a lattice-like layer in paint stick, the artist’s chosen materials since the 1970s.

Me and You is the gallery’s second exhibition with McArthur Binion and the first show in Chicago to include the work of celebrated New York photographer Jules Allen. Allen studied photography under Jack Welpott, whose formalist leanings were rooted in the tradition of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, and received an MS in clinical psychology to better understand the human subject. In 1978, Allen moved to New York, where he met Binion among a rich milieu of Black avant-garde musicians and artists. Allen pursued both studio and commercial work for clients including Def Jam Recordings, became a professor at Queensborough Community College, and participated in the Kamoinge Workshop, all as he honed his vision in photographing Black urban life.

Me and You surveys Allen’s gelatin silver prints from the 1980s to the present, spanning bodies of work including Hats and Hat Nots, In Your Own Sweet Way, and Rhythmology. The photographs reference a lineage that includes Romare Bearden, Henri Cartier Bresson, Robert Frank, Beuford Smith, and Roy DeCarava, with whom Allen also studied. Allen’s keen sense of formal elements such as light, line, and tonality, are used in combination with personal insight and empathy to create a communal portrait across scenes like a street baptism in Harlem, a woman waiting for the subway, teenagers working out on the street, and a line of police behind a single, elderly protestor.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, with a dialogue between McArthur Binion and Jules Allen and an introduction by Dr. Thulani Davis.