McGill’s work can be related back “to the anthropomorphism of Jeff Koons’ vacuum cleaner sculptures, and the butch primitivism of artists like Nancy Grossman and Jean-Michel Basquiat. And their strange kinship with African art is self-evident. But as simple objects, McGill’s constructions are like superheroes — mysterious, tightly garbed, exciting.”
"The work discovers new conceptual mass in the well-worn territories of race and representation."
Trained formally as a painter, the recipient of the 2015 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painter and Sculptor Grant and 2014 Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant, Charles McGill has evolved into a multi-disciplinary artist. The majority of his work over the past 15 years falls under the auspices of what the artist refers to as ‘The Artifacts from the Former Black Militant Golf and Country Club,’ a conceptually-based body of work that incorporates golf objects, mostly golf bags, into statements that explore race, politics, sex and class. In this work he incorporates found object, graphic design, performance, essay, photography, appropriation, digital arts, collage and assemblage into creating an array of golf and race-related objects infused with satire and socio-political digs. Club Negro, Baggage, Arthur Negro I & II, FBMGCC and SKINNED all represent series’ of works within the artists oeuvre.
In April of 2016 The Boca Raton Museum of Art will host McGill’s first major museum exhibition titled Charles McGill: Front Line, Back Nine. The exhibition will survey the artists work since 2000. Since his first solo exhibition in 1999 at the Barbara Ann Levy Gallery in New York City, his work has been exhibited at national art fairs such as Pulse, The Miami Project, The Chicago Art Expo, The Art Show at the ADAA Art Fair at The Armory in New York City among many others. He has also exhibited nationally in group shows at The Wadsworth Museum in Hartford, CT., The 2008 and 2012 Westchester Biennial and various other exhibition venues including his 2010 solo exhibitions “BAGGAGE” at Russell Projects in Richmond, Va., TRAPPED at The Phatory in NYC and “SHAMAN” his first one-person show with Pavel Zoubok Galleryin NYC where he is represented. In March of 2015 his much-anticipated second solo exhibition of new work, Territories, opened at Pavel Zoubok. His work has been reviewed by Ken Johnson in The New York Times, Joe Lewis in Art in America, R.C. Baker in The Village Voice, Walter Robinsonin Artnet Magazine. The work has appeared in other printed periodicals and art newspapers such as The International Review of African-American Art, The Brooklyn Rail, Artillery Magazine and White Hot Magazine as well as many independent blogs. In 2015 his work appeared in Claudia Rankine’s book, The Racial Imagery: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind and in the same year The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts acquired five of McGill’s works as part of a generous gift from Richmond collectors, Bill and Pamela Royall, including Arthur Negro II, for their permanent collection. In the fall 2016 his work will appear in an art history book called, Art for Everyone published by Chemeketa Press.
In 2007 he was a recipient of an Art Matters Grant and in 2009 was a recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. He was a 2010 and 2011 nominee for the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant and received the grant in 2015 after being nominated for a third time.
Charles received an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore where he was a Ford Foundation Fellow, a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in NYC and an AFA from Keystone Junior College in La, Plume, PA. He is also a former attendee of The Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine.
In 2005 thirty of his drawings illustrated the book, The Six-Spoke Approach to Golf, published by Lyons Press.
He is currently represented by Pavel Zoubok Gallery in New York City. He is an Assistant Professor at Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York City. Charles lives and works in Peekskill, N.Y.
“I find the golf bag to be very a political object due to its historical associations with class in equality and racial injustice. It's resonates with me on increasingly deeper levels. It is both an object and subject that lends itself well to found object abstractions and assemblages that address these well-chronicled complexities.
Unlike modern golf bags, these vintage-style bags are constructed of very durable materials and heavy hardware that are extremely difficult to disassemble and manipulate. The tempered plastic, steel, heavy riveting and stitching, leather and vinyl resist structural change. The deconstruction process requires the use of several power tools, blades, drills and steel wire cutters. The often turbulent and frustrating often speaks to the larger predicament of dismantling the old socio-political mechanisms in favor of a new paradigm.
These old bags often have a thumbnail-sized tag with the words ‘Made in the USA’ and an American Flag embroidered onto a small tag sewn along a seam. Many of them were manufactured in the south, in particular, Jasper, Alabama; conceptually relevant to the work, this evocative detail of the Jim Crow-era serves as a very meaningful catalyst.
I try to expand the perceived boundaries of this material and the way in which discussions on race can be compelled and reconsidered. Race and representation are the conceptual DNA of my work, not a billboard for those issues."
- Charles McGill - January 2016
On Arthur Negro I & II
The two quintessential pieces from this more than decade long body of work are, Arthur Negro I & II. Both are photo realistic, life-sized self-portraits. They represent my very personal and earnest contributions to the dialogue of, "What is Black Art?", hence the name Arthur Negro. I wanted to significantly change the discussion with these two sculptures.