Exhibition Information

"Black Sun": Willie Binnie
September 5 - October 20, 2023

The work revolves around the title, Black Sun, in both symbolic/archetypal and literal/compositional ways. The subdued palate contributes to the sober concept of the body of work and creates a competitive environment for the views. Paintings, in very broad strokes, ruminate on the reliance on cosmological mechanisms, such as the sun's rays and the moon's orbit, maintaining homeostasis on Earth. Binnie explains, "I'm fascinated by humanity's blinding exceptionalism, especially now, in the face of ecological collapse, and this dependence on objects, such as the sun, that enable life to exist in the first place. "Black Sun" came quite directly from a profound and sublime experience of witnessing the total solar eclipse several years ago, which I traveled to South Carolina to see—but not so much in the obvious aesthetic experience of a literal black disk (or void) but more so in the sense of collapsing time, and feeling a truly existential sense of being infinitesimally small and inconsequential, which is a rather freeing and euphoric feeling and made me feel connected to humanity across time and place (from ancient spectators of the same phenomena to the present, all trying to make sense of our world), at least for those two-and-a-half minutes."

Smaller watercolors, sketches, and a few large paintings in the exhibition refer to other themes present in previous works that confront the American mythos — the imagery enshrouding a land with a complex and often dark and troubling past and present, cloaked in a smokescreen of stoic heroism — as well as larger concerns surrounding notions of power, nationalism, bigotry, war, land, death, and the visual markers connected to each. Distilling a pictorial language from a range of sources, such as film, photography, politics, history, and quotidian life, Binnie appropriates various techniques and styles, most often in the realm of painting, in order to examine the underlying social constructs and perceptions of rural landscapes. This approach allows the artist to prod the complicated and often paradoxical nature of these issues, allowing space for connections between a range of imagery compiled by the artist over many years. His work straddles a quiet bleakness and subtle humanism, rendering a fraught balance between hope, despair, doubt, and belief. 

Along with the exhibition, supporting programming will accompany the project. Events will include artist's talks, documentary screenings, and presentations that contribute additional perspectives on the exhibition content. 

On Thursday, September 21, Binnie will travel to the campus again to deliver his Artist's Talk, which will provide deeper insight into his artistic practice and personal perspective in the development of an individual visual language. 

The program will continue with a lecture presented by Wylie Schwartz, Assistant Professor of Art History, Art and Art History Department, SUNY Cortland. The talk, scheduled for Thursday, October 5, will discuss the various methods and strategies visual artists have used to intervene into the social sphere. Looking closer at Northern European artists who take cues from a lineage of somber, melancholic, and wildly expressionist Nordic expressionism – along with a desire to create work that can affect some type of individual or social transformation – Schwartz will consider the possibility of a 'Nordic model' for revolutionary art practice. Analyzing the spectrum of practices that constitute art and social change, she will consider Willie Binnie's work through the lens of this so-called Nordic model of critical art practice in order to gain a more intricate understanding of his work.   

The lecture series will conclude on Tuesday, October 10, with a visual presentation by Howard Lindh, lecturer at the English Department, SUNY Cortland, titled Out of Time: Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal, with the analysis of the iconic film that describes a world on the brink of chaosLindh will touch on Bergman's study of existential crisis and will examine the characters as they try to find meaning in the face of the plague and grapple with the reality riddled with religious extremism. Binnie elaborates, "The film had a huge impact on me when I first saw it in my 20s, as did much of Ingmar Bergman's work. Over the past several years, my work has become increasingly tonal (with the process of staining black washes into the canvas to develop or render an image versus applying paint in a more traditional manner), so perhaps that's why I've been dwelling on the film again lately. I have used references to the film in earlier works, but I think the sublime dread I try to locate in my work has made me think about it more recently. There is something about the collision of essentially modern existentialist philosophy as the dialogue of the film set during the Black Death of the 14th century that creates such a rich film. The iconography of the film (the Danse Macabre, the personification of Death, the chess match, etc.) are all things that are also medieval in origin but are used as poetic devices that render visible the internal struggle of the knight seeking some kind of meaning amongst great despair — a truly timeless quest, however bleak."

About the Artist: 

Willie Binnie is a Scottish-American artist born in Dallas, TX in 1985. He lives and works in Williamstown, MA, where he has been a visiting lecturer at Williams College since 2019. He received his BA from Pitzer College in Claremont, CA, in 2008 and his MFA from SMU Meadow School of the Arts in 2014. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, with notable exhibitions including Lure of the Dark: Contemporary Painters Conjure the Night at Mass MoCA (2018-2019), the deCordova Museum 2019 Biennial, Lincoln, MA, and the inaugural exhibition at The Bunker: The Collection of Beth Rudin DeWoody, West Palm Beach, FL (2019-2020). He has been awarded several artist residencies, including The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency in Captiva, FL (2014) and The Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, NE (2020), with a forthcoming residency at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, TX, in 2024. Recent exhibitions include a survey of new approaches to painting at Pomona College, CA, in September 2022 and Murmur, the inaugural show at Keijsers Koning, Dallas, TX, in March 2022. Binnie co-founded Beefhaus, an artist-run art space and community center in the Exposition Park neighborhood of Dallas, which supported solo and group presentations and performances from 2013-2018. In the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, Binnie co-founded the Puerto Rican artist residency program at Mass MoCA, an ongoing, fully-funded fellowship for visual artists and writers from Puerto Rico.

Office Information

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