PRINT January 2004


Banks Violette

Banks Violette is a Brooklyn-based artist. His work will be on view this spring in the 2004 Whitney Biennial and at Team Gallery, New York.

  1. THEODOR KITTELSEN Little known outside his native Norway (except to fans of some of the more delinquent Norwegian bands that constantly recirculate his work on their album covers), Kittelsen (1857–1914) blended Germanic pictorial romanticism with the near psychedelia of English illustrator Arthur Rackham. Of particular note is his 1896 book The Black Death, which stitches together the historical event of the plague and folklore, its visuals sliding around some uneasy place between the innocence of children’s book illustration and the sublime austerity of Caspar David Friedrich. Really great, really weird stuff—and hard to find. I’ve been trying to locate a catalogue of Kittelsen’s work with zero luck, so if anyone out there has a lead, please help.

    Theodor Kittelsen, Fattigmannen (Tired Man), 1894–95. From The Black Death, 1896. Theodor Kittelsen, Fattigmannen (Tired Man), 1894–95. From The Black Death, 1896.
  2. THE NO TEXTS 1979–2003 (Abaton Book Company, 2003) A perfect analogue to Steven Parrino’s practice, this collection of the artist’s texts rambles, breaks, and re-forms with the same discipline evinced in his work. Jerking from Beat-poetry cadence to song lyrics and quotes culled from art criticism, Parrino points to the disaster at the center of his project. Featured at the book release were girls dressed like vampires; try to find a copy where the all-black pages in the center of the book have fang marks.

  3. DARKTHRONE, HATE THEM (Moonfog, 2003) Not many people are fans of Kabuki-painted Vikings shrieking about the grim North, but Darkthrone veers far enough into the weird to make them worth listening to. While most Black Metal is collapsing under elaborate orchestration and unfortunate ideological positions, Darkthrone still manages to give snow a sound track. This CD has every quality that made the genre so fantastic in the first place: static voices, wasp-in-a-bottle guitars, and drums that deny anything resembling rhythm.

    Darkthrone (Nocturno Culto and Fenriz) in Norway, 2003. Darkthrone (Nocturno Culto and Fenriz) in Norway, 2003.
  4. ROBERT SMITHSON: LEARNING FROM NEW JERSEY AND ELSEWHERE (MIT Press, 2002) Art historian Ann Morris Reynolds reads Smithson’s practice not from a neutral institutional remove but instead through the lens of the social/cultural events of his time; in the end, Smithson comes out more relevant than ever. One hopes this will be just the first of many Smithson titles to be released in conjunction with curator Eugenie Tsai’s retrospective, which, when it finally travels to the Whitney, should go far toward healing the heartbreak of not having received the Eva Hesse retrospective.

  5. THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY: MURDER, MAGIC, AND MADNESS AT THE FAIR THAT CHANGED AMERICA (Crown Publishers, 2003) In 1893 the Chicago World’s Fair, an unprecedented spectacle directed by architect Daniel Hudson Burnham, opened to the public. At the same moment, one Henry H. Holmes began advertising rooms in a hotel he had built close to the fairgrounds. But Holmes wasn’t interested in making a profit; he used the fair as a lure and a cover, murdering young women guests in his “murder palace.” Author Erik Larson renders a fascinating account of public and private fantasy in architectural terms: On one hand there’s the template on which Disney was built (Walt’s dad worked for the fair), and on the other, a parasitic, pathological, though equally grand ambition.

  6. SUE DE BEER, THE DARK HEARTS, 2003 Anyone familiar with de Beer’s work will watch her latest video with a certain anticipation that at any moment the narrative is going to take a terrible turn. But here de Beer leaves her usual darkness behind to consider a more everyday kind of horror: adolescent awkwardness on the occasion of the first kiss. With her claustrophobic mapping of the details of teen consumerism—spiked belts, Hello Kitty radios—and an ambience provided by video-game sound tracks and B-movie stage sets, de Beer avoids critical sterility in favor of a weirdly poignant take on the whole sweaty-palmed event.

  7. PEARSON’S TEXAS BBQ, JACKSON HEIGHTS, QUEENS While true North Carolina–style barbecue is impossible to find in New York, Pearson’s (despite its name) does a fair imitation. And the neighborhood’s polyglot cosmopolitanism (the three-block walk from the 7 train takes you past Korean evangelical ministries and Bollywood theaters) is a perfect reminder of the regional specificity of a good pork shoulder.

  8. RETURN OF ’ZINE CULTURE Sure, websites offer speed and economy, but there’s no replacement for material evidence when it comes to other people’s enthusiasms. While Kinko’s samizdat seems bound to nostalgia, some new efforts dodge the “remember when” bullet. Brian Sholis’s Why We Should Talk About . . . , love letters to artists he thinks should be better recognized; Adam Putnam’s Into the Abyss, essays and art relating to sex and landscape; Trinie Dalton’s Touch of Class, an LSD-inflected ode to unicorns; and Casey McKinney’s teen travelogue Mall Punk are all worth tracking down.

  9. JAMES ROSENQUIST, HORIZON HOME SWEET HOME, 1970/2003 Rosenquist’s room-size environment of near-monochrome paintings, Mylar, and dry-ice fog, originally made in 1970 and re-created in Chelsea (under the auspices of Robert Miller Gallery, New York, and Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London) to accompany the Guggenheim’s retrospective, took Stella’s implied theatricality and accelerated it to hysterical dimension and pitch. Imagine the Rothko Chapel reworked as a secular wallow in pure affect.

    James Rosenquist, Horizon Home Sweet Home, 1970/2003. Installation view, Robert Miller Gallery Temporary Annex, New York, 2003. James Rosenquist, Horizon Home Sweet Home, 1970/2003. Installation view, Robert Miller Gallery Temporary Annex, New York, 2003.
  10. GERTRUDE M. JONES An obituary published in The Times-Picayune on October 2, 2003: “Word has been received that Gertrude M. Jones, 81, passed away on August 25, 2003, under the loving care of the nursing aides of Heritage Manor of Mandeville, Louisiana. She was a native of Lebanon, KY. She was a retired Vice President of Georgia International Life Insurance Company of Atlanta, GA. Her husband, Warren K. Jones predeceased her. Two daughters survive her: Dawn Hunt and her live-in boyfriend, Roland, of Mandeville, LA; and Melba Kovalak and her husband, Drew Kovalak, of Woodbury, MN. Three sisters, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren, also survive her. Funeral services were held in Louisville, KY. Memorial gifts may be made to any organization that seeks the removal of President George Bush from office.” I miss her already.