Smoke and Mirrors
December 15, 2011 - January 28, 2012
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John Bankston’s sculptures and paintings begin a new chapter in his on-going narrative of life in the Rainbow Forest. The story picks up as the creators of the Abstracticators (machines invented to transform whoever looks at them) find their inventions have taken on a life of their own and are growing in both size and number. With this proliferation, inhabitants of the Rainbow Forest begin sprouting huge beards and big hairdos. Are the changes mutations caused by smoky pollutants from the machines, or distorted reflections from their mirrors, or a disguise?
Bankston does not answer these questions, but brings them up for us to ponder. Inspired by a visit to the Sloss Furnace, an old steel plant in Birmingham, AL, Bankston imagined the plight of steel workers laboring amongst enormous machines in the hellish heat of molten steel compounded by the heat of a racially charged South. He started thinking about the workers, literally and metaphorically, caught up in “a machine.” Besides advancing his narrative, the giant mechanisms also allowed him to expand his visual vocabulary, explore new shape-making, and work out ideas about space and depth within the picture plane and in 3-D. Combining abstracted elements with figures added a satisfying complexity to both his narrative and the images.
Bankston was born in Benton Harbor, MI and obtained his MFA in painting from the School of the Art Institute, Chicago, IL. Recent exhibitions include Watching Hands: Artists respond to KEEPING WELL at the David J. Spencer CDC Museum in Atlanta, GA, the SECA Anniversary Exhibit at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, and 30 Americans at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. He currently lives and works in San Francisco, CA.