Banks Violette. All images via Blum & Poe.
In his first Los Angeles solo exhibition, Brooklyn-based artist Banks Violette presents a body of work that blends the signifiers of diverse subcultural communities with the formal aesthetics of Minimalist and Post-minimalist sculpture. With their slick black surfaces, elegant physicality, and decidedly graphic sensibility, Violette’s works harken back to the machismo of 1960s sculpture, but with the added twist of nostalgia for the nihilism and aggression of a punk rock past.
Banks Violette, Not Yet Titled (2011)
The group of large-scale sculptures and graphite drawings on view at Blum & Poe cull together visual and material cues from a variety of male-dominated communities and histories. We see the industrial materials of Minimalism; the number of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. scaled to monumental proportions; and the hardcore band Minor Threat being evoked in a title. In many cases the traces of violent pasts remain evident in the works, such as in the torched metal 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s number), seemingly alluding to the fiery crash that lead to the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr., or the gaping holes in the otherwise impenetrable powder-coated road fence formations.
Drawing on these subcultures but refusing to take a particular position, whether it be one of moralizing judgment or genuine reverence, Violette’s work instead reflects what the artist described in an interview with Nowness as social entropy. In a single turn of phrase, the artist brings together the theoretical discussion of entropy raised by artist Robert Smithson and popular conceptions of the term used to refer to inevitable social decline and degeneration.
This juxtaposition aptly describes the work at Blum & Poe and characterizes much of Violette’s practice. Arresting the zealousness, which would seem to underlie the impulse towards violence found in these kinds of subcultures, the works on display instead convey a profound apathy towards the complex political ideologies operating beneath the surfaces. While Violette’s work has an undeniable physical and visual presence—and cultural resonance—one wonders what is gained and what is lost when a deeply-felt fervor is translated into monolithic objects.
- M. Hoetger