Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Steve Banks: Artist, Davenport Iowa

enough about me. let's talk about Steve Banks.

66 x 40 inches

(click on any images for a larger view)

i first met steve in downtown davenport a little over a year ago, as i was attending an arts party for a performance festival my wife had a hand in running. we got to chatting about being artists, and he struck me as someone a bit more informed than most other area artists. steve was actually in mid-conversation with one of his buyers, and was preparing to show the gentleman new work at his studio. he offered that i join in, so we all went for a walk of about three blocks to check things out.

the invigorating feeling of walking downtown late at night in the humid air of the late spring was mixing with the alcohol i had been drinking. i was starting to feel like i was back in chicago, meandering from gallery to gallery. i was excited to hang out with these peeps, because it seemed to me like really interesting visual artists had moved to the QCs during the time i was away. that feeling was further strengthened when i walked into steve's studio. steve rents out a space above a downtown business (that might not even be open anymore), and the place looks like what an artist's studio should look like. the stairs that lead up to his space are shoddy and uncomfortable, the walls are peeling paint, and there's shit everywhere. it's perfect.

70 x 48 inches

86 x 65 inches

after spending a good amount of time looking at a lot of work that night, and after having seen even more since then at area shows, i've become a big fan of steve's style. if one must categorize, his oeurve seems to have three different realms:

first, there are pieces that are straight painting. these pieces stand out from others rather easily, because there our obvious physical differences from the rest. simply stated, these would be paintings on canvas - sometimes with wacky, complex, wooden frames (check out "The Priestess" directly above).

next, there are pieces that are conglomerations of found objects, usually placed within some sort of a standard rectangular composition - a fixed frame, if you will. these found objects are almost always toys/remnants from the seventies and eighties — be it GI Joe™ figurines or Muscle Men™ — and they are spray painted to an almost monochromatic oneness. think louise nevelson's organization fetish meeting keith haring's or kenny scharf's sense of play and fun.

finally, there are hybrid painting-sculptural apparatuses. these have a similar look as the first "straight painting" category, but actually have a lot of 3D forms built into the framework. there are sewn bridges being traipsed and goofy puppet heads doing their thing (check out "...Mr Bombastico" at the very bottom of this post).

i tend to be drawn more to the first and third bodies of work, so i'll talk about one of my favorites before i wrap it up. check out "Carnival" - the painting i placed at the very top of this post. the artist has drawn up a narrative that you can almost follow like the page of a novel:

- a totem with a skyscraper headdress offers up a big mac, fries, and a cola ala some sort of magic "what do you want?" machine that Bender would conjure up in his abdomen and serve with the ding of an easy bake oven.

- some sort of many-footed creature marches towards the offering with gusto, and i can't help but think it looks like Ned Flanders (so of course, i think that's fucking cool).

- little ginger-bread fellas teeter back and forth on the roof of a classical-style building, their stylized wangs hanging out for all to see.

- a tiny little observatory watches the entire scene unfold, while hundreds of homogenized, soul-less "people" keep getting churned out by "the machine" (don't ask...).

so... this is what goes on in steve's creative inward eye, and i love it.

what do you think? take a look at the other images i've posted, and really sit and look. pay attention to his use of color. keep an eye out for interesting things going on in his custom, labor-intensive frames. and if you'd like to see more, go here:
Steve banks on The Art Feed.


66 x 30 inches

Barbarians at the Gate
66 x 48 inches

The Fantastico Mr Bombastico
60 x 35 inches


Moe said...

Although I, myself, am not a big "art person," I can appreciate good art and I am especially happy to hear that maybe downtown DPort is having a big of an art Renaissance. Our downtown could be a spectacular place with the river, the old buildings, the size of the metropolitan area, etc., if only we had a reason for people to go down there - like art, music, eateries, living places, etc. My wife and I ate lunch downtown yesterday and were surprised by how nice it is in some areas and with how many people were out and about.

I hope they continue to attract artists and others to live and work downtown.

Matt said...

thanks for stopping by again, moe. sounds like we're both of the ilk who is a downtown person, rather than a 53rd street patron (that stylistic choice is also reflected in my home purchase - we opted for a 1917 hardwood floor 4-square one block north of Locust, versus the homogenous, cookie-cutter new constructions elsewhere).

i'm not sure why the almost 'dead zone' has stuck for so long after the mid 80s. i've spent evenings out and about in dubuque and iowa city, and things are more vibrant there (i'm guessing cedar rapids might be more similar to us, but des moines has us beat by a long shot). you and i both probably read a lot of what people like QCI write about, and the contrasting opinions of what people like Cruiser say. speaking for myself, i am not upset at the least with parking meters downtown (hell, they don't even need to be plugged after 5, or at all on weekends). i've been approached by two people for money, but they kindly walk away after a simple "no." on the other hand, some parts still say "shady area," like certain multi-unit buildings on downtown's west side. some areas look god-awful. so, i'm not sure what to say. are developers scared of an area's "feel?" or, are the properties in such a large amount of disarray that new build projects would be difficult? i'm not a city planning person by any means, but i do wish there was more activity down there. i love the fact that crescent lofts and other buildings like that do what they do. i hope more renovations like that keep happning, and i'm anxious to see how the old salvation army building turns out. if those types of condo/apartment buildings maintain their success, a downtown hyvee could further strengthen the vibrancy down there. it would be cool to see bike lanes, too.

ciaobox said...

i'm intriged by this steve banks, it's almost as though the author of this logtotheB knows him intimately, like a lover scorned or adored.

do you have information on steve banks' size? his artwork that is. i'm interested in a purchase, do you accept pay my pal?