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STEVE BANKS

Education

1995 BFA Northwest Missouri State University.
1997 MFA Florida State University.

Artist Bio

written by Rob Perree for the Tembe Fu Libi (Moengo Festival of Visual Arts)

The world of American artist Steve Banks is that of Star Wars, Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's and comic strips.  It is that popular culture with which he is preoccupied.  And critically so.  He urges the observer to relate to it and to also have an opinion about it.

The shape into which he pours that world is remarkable.  Basically it's paintings that he makes, but they seem to be more constructions, 3-dimensional collages, or assemblages.  They are literally layered.  They sometimes make me think of aerial views of pinball machines.  The images are playful distortions of reality just as comic strip characters are distorted.  Words often play as much a role as images.  The "canvasses" are surrounded by ornamental, burgundy frames which form a part of the total image.  The characters, objects, symbols, and texts seem to be arbitrarily placed upon a foundation.  As if they have been sprinkled there.  This gives rise to varying relations and contrasts, depending on the manner in which the work is viewed by the observer.  It is strange that Banks' work – often large – makes a timeless impression, while the subject matter is very actual, and in fact, relates to the present.  That is because he mixes his imagery with visual elements that give rise to memories of traditional African cultures, to pre-Columbian visual elements or of visual elements regularly found in Folk Art.  He most likely consciously creates that confusion because it is a way of attracting the attention of the viewer, keeping him/her focused on the subject.

In fact, he also does that by using the means of seduction.  The whole lot of characters, colors, letters, shapes, as well as materials, often form an aesthetic totality.  Even the viewer who is not interested in the content would feel attracted to the original beauty of Banks' work.

Artist Statement
My artwork is about finding meaningful identity and individuality within popular culture.  I strive to make energetic images that explore our relationships and interactions with what is precious, beautiful, necessary, serious, sensual, and non-sensical, through juxtapositions of disparate materials, clashing iconography, pungent color schemes, contrasting textures, scale, and, simplicity versus clutter.

My image-making process is fueled by curiosity regarding the process of partial cultural assimilation.  These studio works are rooted in the quest for the individual within an apathetic culture of homogeneity and pre-packaged identity.  This search for individuality often turns into commentaries about how we miraculously form meaningful interpersonal connections and relationships, while our souls seem to bob haplessly on an isolating sea of cultural white noise.

With the visual feel of an erratic archeological dig into pop culture, these recent painted constructions are composites of several layers of imagery which reference accumulated cultural "deposits."  These deposits are rife with images and motifs appropriated from antiquity, sub-Saharan Africa, pre-Columbian cultures of Central and South America, as well as Folk Artists, German Expressionists, old notebook doodles, and childish bathroom graffiti.  All of which are contrasted with more prominent surface layers of machine gears, fast foods, cityscapes, power ties, and impulse buys.

Select Exhibitions

SOLO EXHIBITIONS


2018
Pop Culture Palimpsest

Davenport, Iowa. Figge Art Museum.

2014
A More Refined Mayhem

Clinton, Iowa. Cortona Gallery, Ashford University.

Ill-Suited For The Pleasantries

Moline, Illinois.  Black Hawk College ArtSpace Gallery.

2013
Dutiful Citizen

Maquoketa, Iowa.  Maquoketa Art Experience.

2009
Carry-on Baggage

Macomb, Illinois. University of Western Illinois.

2008
Funky Aftertaste

Davenport, Iowa.  Moressey Gallery.  St. Ambrose University.

2005
Surfacing 

New Orleans, Louisiana.  Next II Gallery.

GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2019

Not Windmills/But Giants

Chicago, Illinois.  Gallery Victor Armendariz.


2018
Dr. Portmanteau's Galorium Emporium

Moline, Illinois.  Black Hawk College ArtSpace Gallery.

KC/QC

Davenport, Iowa.  Scott Community College Urban Campus.

2017
In/ConFLUENCE

Rock Island, Illinois.  Quad City Arts Gallery.

2016
North On 71

Kansas City, Kansas.  Group exhibition in conjunction with NCECA 2016.

2015
allinitogether

Davenport, Iowa.  Figge Art Museum Plaza.

Colloquy

Paramaribo, Suriname.  Nola Hatterman Art Academy.

Moengo Visual Arts Festival

Tembe Art Studio.   Moengo, Suriname.

2014
On-som’-bel

Batavia, Illinois.  Water Street Studios.

Artists First

Davenport, Iowa.  Figge Art Museum.

2013
Merican-Tastic! II: The Son of Tastic! 

Rock Island, Illinois.  Quad City Arts.

Questionable Architecture

Davenport, Iowa.  Figge Art Museum.

2012
Merican-Tastic! 

Davenport, Iowa.  Bucktown Gallery.


2011
ELEMENTAL  

Rock Island, Illinois. Midcoast Gallery West.


Artifice, Artifact, and Allegory

Moline International Airport, Moline, Illinois.  Quad City Arts Airport Gallery.

2010
Things of Which Our Mothers Would Not Approve. 

Davenport, Iowa. Bucktown Gallery.
PLAY.  Rock Island, Illinois.  Quad City Art Gallery.

2009
The Dusty World and The Dewy New Moon

Davenport, Iowa.  Bucktown Gallery.

2008
EX-CH-AN-GE. 

Rock Island, Illinois.  Quad City Arts Gallery.

The Cube: Bloom

Davenport, Iowa.  St. Ambrose University.

2007
Group Show.  New Orleans, Louisiana.  Next II Gallery.
                   

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