Charles Mason III USA, b. 1990

Overview

“I think there is some divine thing that takes over sometimes. When people ask how I’m feeling, I say, ‘It’s in the work.’ We are truly exposing ourselves, our group and collective selves, in a particular way that requires a sense of vulnerability. So yeah, there’s spirit in the work. It can’t be faked.”

—  Charles Mason III

Charles Mason III is an abstract painter whose work leverages symbolic content—such as the color black, hidden text, and repeated pictorial motifs like flowers and bricks—to create interpretive aesthetic spaces that address grief, mourning, and morbidity.

 

Mason asks how blackness can be experienced abstractly through installation and materials. While creating his work, internally he may be responding to specific contemporary events and narratives that relate to his experience moving through the world as a Black person. Meanwhile, his choice to deploy abstraction as an aesthetic strategy creates a space of freedom from such narratives, both for himself as an artist and for the viewers.

 

“I’m often frustrated when someone arrives at the conclusion that my work is political or politically aware,” Mason says. “Just recently a friend asked about the artist’s role. What should Black artists be doing with their work? We should be doing what we want to do, point blank and period.”

 

Mason’s brut forms, rough textures, and use of non-traditional mediums connect the work conceptually to notions of decay and questions about social and material value. The concepts and the content are there—they occupy physical and metaphysical space, but they are also a form of distraction. Formal aesthetic principles are also at work, as are notions of beauty and resistance. Viewers have the freedom and the responsibility to choose for themselves whether to acknowledge, reject, or ignore whatever references are perceptible within the work.


Mason is a recipient of the Maurice Freed Memorial Prize. He earned his Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2019. His work was recently included in the exhibition Radical Reading Room at the Studio Museum in Harlem, NY, as well as in group exhibitions at Hudson Valley MOCA, Peekskill, NY; Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, PA; and Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, Grand Rapids, MI. Work by Mason is in the permanent collection of the James E. Lewis Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD, and the Whitney Museum of American Art Special Collections, New York, NY.

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