John Bankston

publication available

John Bankston is a self-declared storyteller and visual novelist. Based in San Francisco and trained as a painter, Bankston began to use the visual structures of children’s coloring books in the early 2000s to create fantastical stories exploring personal identities and inner worlds. Coloring books - whose bold black outlines of storybook characters, animals, etc. are commonly intended for eager children to color in as a participatory activity - offered him a visual trope from which to create imaginary landscapes and characters. Over the past decade, he has constructed a deeply personal iconography that continues to challenge him. On a formal basis, he has been able to use the structure of a coloring book page to meld his interest in the interaction between the linear and the painterly.  Bankston is particularly interested in constructing what he calls “sustained narratives” using visuals, not texts, to create content.  He often sends his imaginary characters, frequently human/animal hybrids, on journeys of transformation.  These tales can seem childlike at first glance, but they very much mine more adult examinations of our relationships to the subconscious, as well as how we construct our personal identities.  His references to popular culture, folk tales, fantasy literature, and African-American and African culture offer entry points into his word regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity.

John Bankston received his M.F.A. in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1990. In addition to solo exhibitions at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, the de Young Museum in San Francisco and the Atlanta College of Art, Georgia, he has participated in many group shows, including Freestyle (the Studio Museum in Harlem); Thirty Americans (The Rubell Family Collection, Miami); Splat, Boom, Pow (Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston); Seeing Double: Encounters with Warhol (The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh), and Comic Release (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh), and most recently at the Studio Museum in Harlem's "The Bearden Project", and his work was included in the Orange County Museum of Art's 2013 California-Pacific Triennial curated by Dan Cameron.

Among his numerous awards are a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant, an Outstanding Ford Foundation Fellowship, a SECA Art Award from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant.
His works are represented in a number of significant public and private collections, including the Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL; the de Young Museum, San Francisco; the Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Cornell University; the Miami Art Museum; the Norton Family Foundation, Santa Monica; the Rubell Family Collection, Miami; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Studio Museum in Harlem; the University of California, Berkeley, Museum of Art; the University of Illinois, Chicago; and the Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford.






The Letter

2013
acrylic and collaged Arches (140 lb) watercolor paper
on Arches watercolor paper
(140 lb), mounted on panel
 
16 by 20 in.



 
     
Little Machine

2013
acrylic and collaged Arches (140 lb)
watercolor paper
on Arches watercolor paper (140 lb),
mounted on panel
 
12 by 9 in.
  Big Flower

2013
acrylic and collaged Arches (140 lb)
watercolor paper
on Arches watercolor paper (140 lb),
mounted on panel
 
12 by 9 in.
     






Wings

2013

acrylic and collaged Arches (140 lb) watercolor paper
on Arches watercolor paper (140 lb), mounted on panel
 
12 by 9 in.

private collection, Birmingham, AL




Magic at Hand

an amazing series of eight very large works on paper

(each ca. 30 by 60.5 in.)
Acrylic on Saunders Waterford paper



Stange Water
Strange Water


"My Hands ... Drip Drip"


Hands and Claws


Tug and Pull


"Can you Help?"


To the Magician's Cave


Rub a Dub


All Clean




a unique painted paper maché sculpture



Big Cloud (pink)
2011
paper, paper pulp, acrylic
  ca. 15 by 7 by 4 3/4  in.
private collection, Birmingham, AL




A series of four works on paper
each 13 by 40 in.
acrylic on paper, 2010
 
 

Long Drawing #1






Long Drawing #2






Long Drawing #3






Long Drawing #4








Edge of the Pond
2010
oil on linen
54 by 48 in.






Leopardman with Rabbit and Bird
2010
oil on linen
54 by 48 in.







Long Painting
2010
acylic on linen
12 by 60 in.
 



six works on paper
each 12 by 8 3/4 in.
watercolor, water soluble pencil, ink on handmade paper, 2010
 
Abstracticator and Leopardman Abstracticator Ring Leader
     
Leopardman Winged Abstracticator Forest



 



Blue Rabbits
2010
oil on linen
54 by 48 in.
private collection, Birmingham, AL






Mr. Kitten and Abstracticator
2010
oil on linen
30 by 26 in.





a series of four paintings
each 24 by 30 in.
oil on panel, 2010



Little Man's Surprise
private collection, Birmingham, AL





A Day in the Forest





Red Rabbit





Journey
private collection, Birmingham, AL