Banks Violette Interview
Banks Violette interviews are hard to come by, the Williamsburg based artist has made a name for himself through his mind blowing work rather than his words. This is an artist who erected a life-sized burned-out church cast in salt, who made a school chair sculpture out of bronze and fire, and has works on display at the MOMA, Saatchi Gallery, his work certainly speaks for itself. We visited Banks Violette’s newest show yesterday at Gladstone Gallery in New York’s Chelsea, the 4 new sculptures on display were each museum worthy, large scale conceptual pieces playing on the historic archives of the art world and their pending decay.
Violette was interviewed for the latest issue of 25 Magazine, prior to this new show in NY…
25 – What dou you like about Austria?
Banks – I just did a show there. I’ve shown there a couple of times. I just did a museum show in Vienna where I curated an exhibition and there was a bunch of work that had already been shown beforehand… I just like Vienna a lot. The history of it is amazing. The entire city was sort of designed to project the imperial power of the Habsburg Dynasty and everything like that, and it’s also got this amazing kind of crossroads. The Ottoman Turks came right up and pulled off their European expansion, but it feels like an abandoned stage set, you know? There’s a couple of Universities, but it feels like the majority of population is old or dispersant so it’s kind of like you’ve gone into the play, you’ve missed the performance, but all the props are still there, which I really love.
Like a ghost town.
Have you ever been to Pioneer Town Lodge and Stables in California? It used to lodge old western stars like Gene Autry while they made their movies. Now, you can stay in those same cabins. It’s literally in the middle of nowhere. If the set needed to be a desert in Mexico, they said it was Mexico, for example.
That’s sort of like the Almería area in Spain where all the Sergio Leone movies where set and also where Alex Cox did this amazing movie called Straight to Hell – you’ve seen that, right? – All his sets were leftover from the Sergio Leone “Man Without a Name” movies, and a bunch of other low budget Italian westerns. All those towns are intact, perfect, pristine American western ghost towns that are in Spain, in the desert. It’s a really unbelievable kind of location.
It’s surreal that a person can walk through a space and completely re-appropriate it.
What’s even better to think about is how the idea of western authentically is filtered through the way it’s been framed cinematically. I did a show at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and my assistant and I were like, “We want to go out to a Texas-style restaurant.” The restaurant they sent us to was modeled from a ranch that looked like it was in a Ronald Reagan movie or something. Fort Worth has real ranches all over the place. They still have active cattle drives! But rather than look to their local culture for what a ranch should be, they looked to Hollywood. It was the weirdest fucking thing, like, “Wow, you can only understand where you are if you triangulate your position from somewhere else?”
Where locals actually there or was that where they told tourists to go?
No, no, no. It was a local institution.
So they’re using Hollywood notions to define themselves?
Totally. It’s a triangulation. It’s like, “I know myself because I see a fragment here and it has bounced back.” Pretty bizarre.
I used to live in Texas. If I were to define it by another western, it’d be Urban Cowboy.
Oh yeah? My family was one of the first to settle in Dallas.
Did you ever go to the Dallas County Fair?
No, my grandmother used to live there, but no.
I went to the fair. I won a Batman poster. So where is your next show going to be?
Barbara Gladstone (New York). I just got back from Belgium. The show wasn’t titled anything; it was in a museum outside of Ghent.
When you show in Europe, do critics treat it the same as they would in America?
No, I don’t think so. The general average of cultural literacy is a little bit different. I think it’s just an entirely different dynamic. Here (in the U.S.), public institutions are…
Thanks to Geometrie Variable for the heads up regarding the interview.