Charles McGee’s Vibrant Art and the Beauty of Detroit

Morgan Meis in The New Yorker:

Recently, I spent an afternoon with the artist Charles McGee, at his home in Rosedale Park, a neighborhood in northwest Detroit. I was trying to understand the thinking behind his new mural downtown, titled “Unity,” which is a hundred and eighteen feet high and fifty feet wide, and which, as of May 31st, can be found on the side of a thirteen-story building at 28 West Grand River Avenue.

McGee showed me a couple of different drawings and mockups of the mural, which is entirely black-and-white. The composition is a complicated interweaving of dots and zigzags, lines, blocks of solid black, and indeterminate organic shapes. There are also representational elements, but it takes a couple of minutes of looking to pick them out. A snake slithers down the top-right section of the design. A small bird nestles beneath curly shapes. What had seemed to be a random collection of polka dots turns out, on closer inspection, to be, possibly, the hindquarters of a leopard.

Meis-Charles-McGee-Unity_02“Is this primarily an abstract work?” I asked McGee.

“No,” he said.

“You see it as representational, then?”


“A mix?”

“Not exactly.”

“Is this work about Detroit somehow?”

“Yes and no.”

“Are these designs coming from African art?”


“Do you see yourself as a black artist?”


“A Detroit artist?”


“An American artist?”


More here.