April 7 - May 7, 2005
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Bay Area artist John Bankston's exhibition will include drawings and paintings of characters acting in obscure narratives that represent and explore different aspects of masculinity. One group, Masked Mexican Wrestlers, are physical "heavies" - sensual, combative, aloof - while another group, Masked Blue Birdmen, are lightweight, hit-and-run pleasure seekers, and more cunning. The two teams interact in a "Circus in the Woods," presided over by a Ringmaster and a leather-man overseer. A group new to this series, but with a long circus tradition, is comprised of bearded ladies, perhaps a nod to superficial sexual characteristics adding a layer of complexity to aspects exhibited by the other groups. Masculine accoutrement - boots, big belt buckles, Speedos, guns, cowboy or motorcycle hats - stand alone as "male" signifiers but some incorporate mazes on their surfaces - showing endless choices or ways to go. Both drawings and paintings appear to advance action but the narratives in this new work are more abstracted than previously. There is no grand finale in Bankston's circus but the Show is a limitless, multi-layered parade of possibilities.
Bankston obtained his MFA in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has received the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant Program Award, The Fleishhacker Foundation Eureka Fellowship, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant and the SECA Award. Bankston's work is included in several public collections including the Studio Musem in Harlem, NY and the Wadswroth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, CT.