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JOHN BANKSTON  /  RECENT PAINTINGS  /  April 20, 2007 – May 19, 2007  /

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Installation View, 2007

Through the Woods with Mr. M
April 20 – May 19, 2007
Friday, April 20, 2007, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
Opening on April 20, 2007, Jack Shainman Gallery is pleased to present Through the Woods with Mr. M, an exhibition of new paintings by John Bankston, who lives and works in San Francisco, CA.  In his third solo exhibition at Jack Shainman Gallery – part of an ongoing visual novel – Bankston continues the saga of his main character, Mr. M. In a style reminiscent of children’s book illustration, the paintings mask a darker agenda – topics of race, gender, oppression, and isolation are all at play. Unfolding in visible brushstrokes and areas of varied paint thickness, Mr. M’s journey is told without accompanying text (though the artist does use titles).  Perhaps to further imply that the story is in progress, Bankston leaves certain areas neutral and uncolored – “portals” through which the viewer may step into the painting.  Essentially, one is left to find his or her way through the story, thus interacting with and mirroring Mr. M’s own journey.
The exhibition will include a series of small paintings in oil and wax, as well as a number of larger works.  The small paintings chronicle Mr. M’s departure from Gene and Gena (who abducted him to replace their missing son) and his subsequent trek through the forest in an effort to flee his enemy, Mr. L.  Operating as both sequential “cells” in a linear narrative and stand-alone paintings, these small canvases document Mr. M’s meetings with various characters: Donkey Boy and HeeShee, who offer to take him away on a pillow cloud; a dubious woodsman; Mr. Kitten; and Rainbow Mystic.  Toward the end of the story, Mr. M is captured by Mr. L’s henchmen.  Considering the small paintings “the movie,” Bankston’s larger works function as “stills.” In these, the narrative is frozen to highlight specific events and characters.
Tapping into the viewer’s wish to complete, or fulfill, an unfinished narrative, Bankston also derives context from the history of his medium.  In coloring books, the necessity for imagination allows for unique narratives to unfold.  Bankston’s works suggest that identity is not only shaped through this process, but that our understanding of images is inextricably linked to subconscious desires.
John Bankston was the subject of a one-person exhibition at The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY in 2001.  His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, including Black Panther Rank and File, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA (2006); Seeing Double: Encounters with Warhol, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA (2005); East of the Sun and West of the Moon, White Columns, New York, NY (2004); and Splat Boom Pow: The Influence of Comics in Contemporary Art, The Contemporary Art Museum Houston, Houston, TX (traveled to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA and Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH).  Bankston is the recipient of the Fleishhacker Award (2004), the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (2002), the SECA Art Award (2002), and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Fellowship (2001).
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