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Jet Set Saturdays: Steven Bankhead at Circus Gallery


Steven Bankhead’s Location Location Location installation view.

The title of Steven Bankhead’s show at Circus Gallery (Location Location Location) is as deceptively simple as his practice. Fourteen large (49″x 36.5″) raw canvases line the walls of the gallery and fit neatly into the space. At first glance Bankhead’s paintings appear as puffs of black ink in a cloudy glass of water like the video manipulation in the Narls Barkly video, “Crazy.” Hallucinogenic and stylistically simple they quote the zen like state of Franz Klein. I know I can hear the groans already. Modernism is over and the tension between the mark and the maker is about as contemporary as an eight track tape. Yet these paintings assert that the tension between black and white is still as dynamic as ever, creating after effects in the eye that are tangible and visceral.


Steven Bankhead, Led Zeppelin (2009). Spray acrylic on raw canvas. 49″ x 36.5″

Although the black and white optical effect Bankhead uses has been played to death by artists from Robert Motherwell to Bridget Riley these paintings are different. The phenomenological elements in the pieces initially overwhelm the viewer.  It is at this point of visual absorption that Bankhead’s conceptual magic starts to work. Suddenly the relationship between positive and negative in the work reveals the tangible form of a broken window. Like Marcel Duchamp’s, “The Bride Stripped Bare of Her Bachelors Even” or Walead Beshty’s FedEx pieces, Bankhead has allowed chance rather than intentionality to form the paintings. His technique employs spray paint applied through broken windows as stencils. The paint bleeds through the raw canvas blurring the edges of the stencil creating an unexpected fluidity. Riffing on the trend of pattern design and hard edge painting in Los Angeles Bankhead has allowed the stencil and pattern to emerge in an unobtrusive way presenting the beauty of decay and the natural fractal design of chaos to create the images.  The location Bankhead refers to operates as a cultural indictment of value since the trashed-out remains of a building are made precious via Bankhead’s mediation. Bankhead elegantly calls our attention fully to the present reminding us that abandoned buildings although prosaic are gateways to beauty available to anyone willing to sit in the location of the moment[.]

This post was contributed by Mary Anna Pomonis

1 Comment


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Jet Set Saturdays: Steven Bankhead at Circus Gallery