"I am steadily wrestling within myself [with] the performative act of blackness. This leads me to think and create abstractly on how blackness can be experienced through installation and materials. I am far more interested in creating spaces that allow for one's own experience to acknowledge, or completely ignore, what’s being conveyed."
- Charles Mason III
The American Abstract artist Charles Mason III (B.1990, Maryland) creates abstractions around identity politics and the “performative act of blackness” experienced and manifested through physical materials. Capturing the pulse of the city, and the beat of his own drum, Mason is “far more interested in creating spaces that allow for the audience’s own experiences of engagement with black identity.”
Mason’s improvisational constructions or ‘sculpt-paintings’ are a non-traditional style that explores layers of energetic personal expression through use of color, form, gesture, and texture, while remaining grounded in social realism. The artist’s work focuses on individual experiences, as well as police brutality, loss, and the generational trauma experienced by black Americans as a result of systemic racism. Mason seeks to reveal the essence of emotion and self-expression through material accumulations. Working between media, fluidly moving from paint on canvas to works made on, or of torn, printed, and impressed upon paper; Mason’s constructions are more about experimentation with materials to achieve an emotional response than they are about constraining himself to a defined and limited media.
The art historical narrative of American Abstraction has been told with an inordinately white cast of characters, misrepresenting the authentic story of abstract practitioners. More recently, Black artists’ contributions to the amplification of contemporary figuration have been acknowledged, almost to the point of erroneously pigeonholing all POC’s into the category of figuration. As the art historical field makes corrections, acknowledging the significance of black abstract and expressionist painters of the past such as Alma Thomas, Sam Gilliam, Jack Whitten, Howardena Pindell, Norman Lewis, Al Loving, and Ed Clark; we come to comprehend their influence on the contemporary practitioners of our day including-- among countless others-- the work of David Hammons, Tomashi Jackson, Julie Mehretu, Glenn Ligon, Adam Pendleton, Mark Bradford, and Charles Mason III. Where Mason certainly is aware of these artists and the influence they have on his practice, he has developed his own distinct vocabulary that engages a type of call and response between painting, printmaking, photo transfers, collage, performance, photographic appropriation, and life experience.
Dragging material across the surface of his complicated matrix, Mason creates passionately charged works that convey an array of complex messages that we cannot effortlessly untangle, and that we certainly cannot easily forget.
Mason received an AA in General Studies from CCBC in 2010 and a BFA in Graphic Design from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 2014. He attended The New School in New York City, and earned a Master of Fine Arts in Studio Practice from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2019.
An active community member, Mason has both exhibited his work, and curated exhibitions within the United States. He has been selected to exhibit in notable group exhibitions at Hudson Valley MOCA, NY; Woodmere Art Museum, PA; The Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; Urban Institute for Contemporary Art, MI; among others. His work is represented in many private and public collections, notably the permanent collections of the James E. Lewis Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD, and The Whitney Museum of American Art -Special Collections, New York, NY.
The artist has served as a guest lecturer and critic from California to Iowa. He has taught at a number of institutions throughout the mid-Atlantic region and was recently awarded the Maurice Freed Memorial Prize.