Publicity and Reviews
JOHN BANKS - PUBLIC REVIEWS
April 25, 2002, John Alan Nyberg, Las Vegas City Life.
Clark County’s other gallery space is the atrium of the Clark County Government Center. It’s a tough place to view art, given the overwhelming visual stimulus of the atrium’s elaborate design, but John Banks’ work holds its own here, given its highly visual nature. Banks’ sculptures are presented as a retrospective as well, covering about three decades, but again the bulk of the work, and the strongest, is from the last six years or so.
Banks’ work is admittedly very clever and (there’s no other work for it) accessible. His sculptures, in steel, bronze and brass, are all abstractions that, when viewed from the correct angle, become a word, number, or symbol. In “Banner Art.” Three rods shoot straight up, their tops trailing like flags in the wind. But when seen head-on from the front, they ingeniously become the word ART. The same simplicity can be seen in “#4 (Las Vegas Fire Station No. 4),” where a single, angled rod, looking like a section of pipe from the innards of some building, transforms itself into a massive 4, or in “Thought of a Treble Clef,” where a serpentine bronze shape becomes musical notation as the viewer walks around it.
Walking around these works, watching them shift from minimal, abstract shapes into recognizable forms, is the whole fun. What elevates Banks’ work is that the sculptures have their own integrity as abstraction before the trick is revealed, especially “The Dimensions of Man”, whose elegant black swoop and curve is beautiful before the eye recreates it as the Japanese ideogram for “man.” If Banks” effects seem too much about that trick, too cute even, one simply has to change perspective.
The artist’s work from the ‘80s demonstrates that he initially created longer words and letters not from the form itself, but from its absence—for instance, carving out the word MUSIC from foam that was then bronze plated. The development away from this technique, toward his current work wherein the sculpture itself forms the symbol, is a good one (although the most ingenious piece in the whole show might be the hollowed out abstraction “N.S.E.W. wherein each side reveals a different compass direction letter, the empty space at the center of the awkward cube shaped in just the right way to make each letter).
If there’s any negative criticism that occurs to this viewer, it is the fact that Banks’ range of symbols so far is fairly limited. One can hope that more elaborate symbols, symbols that perhaps interact with the sculpture’s formal qualities, are in the future. That’s one advantage of seeing a “retrospective” at the early or mid-point of an artist’s career—the story is open-ended, and the viewer gains a glimpse of the promise of works to come that further and deepen the artist’s vision.
December 9, 1999- Las Vegas Weekly Magazine
Some people just command respect, and Las Vegas Firefighter John Banks is one of them Not only does Banks save lives for a living, he is also and accomplished sculptor who’s work has been published in Art in America, Sculpture Magazine and Las Vegas Life. He has bee commissioned in the past to create outdoor sculptures for California State University, Northridge and for the City of Las Vegas Arts Commission, as well as an educational sculpture exhibit for NASA. And now, several of his sculptures can be viewed at the McCarran International Airport. His exhibition, The Diversity of Spelling Art, invites viewers to check out his sculptures from different angles, as the sculptures contain many abstract shapes within various three dimensional words.
The first word sculpture was utilitarian. John had to replace the bumper on his VW and wanted to do something artistic. So he asked himself "why not make a bumper that spell the word?"