“Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White” is like a room full of brilliant introverts: the party doesn’t get interesting until each is engaged on its own terms. The premise is simple: all artworks contain black, white or both, in MCA curator Naomi Beckwith’s first thematic exhibition culled from the museum’s permanent collection. It seems the guests at this gathering don’t have much to talk about beyond the black-tie dress code. Segregated are the sociological-minded artists—Adrian Piper and Kerry James Marshall—from the aestheticians—Robert Ryman and Ad Reinhardt.
Quality selections from the MCA’s permanent collection make the exhibition worth a trip; major highlights include an impressive painting by Rudolf Stingel from his 2007 survey exhibition at the museum, Kara Walker’s silhouettes, and Mike Kelley’s comic drawings exhibited in memoriam right after the artist’s death. Adrian Piper’s “Cornered” and two Kerry James Marshall paintings transgress the exhibition’s monochromatic regulations, illustrating racial identity issues denoted by “black and white.” Elsewhere, the exhibition wanders among formalist, aesthetic and political concerns, revealing that there are many possible inroads for exploring the museum’s collection. The Guggenheim’s concurrent exhibition, “Picasso Black and White,” similarly applies a narrow filter to reveal intricate connections. Though “Color Bind” is full of powerful artworks, it tends to be a bit too general, recalling the all-purpose theme of the museum’s 2002 permanent collection show “Life Death Love Hate Pleasure Pain.” (Anastasia Karpova Tinari)
Through April 28 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 East Chicago.