4 Questions With Artist John Bankston

John Bankston; At the Crossroads (2007)
John Bankston; At the Crossroads (2007)

San Francisco-based John Bankston is one of 31 African-American artists whose work is displayed at the "30 Americans" exhibit, which runs at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., from Oct. 1, 2011, to Feb. 12, 2012.


As the gallery geared up for the exhibit's opening, Bankston talked to The Root about "post-black" art and the one piece you should check out to understand his point of view as an artist.

The Root: Why is an exhibit like "30 Americans" important in the art world?

John Bankston: "30 Americans" is important in the art world [because] it showcases a lot of the different approaches that African-American artists have to creating art, and that's something you don't usually see very often.

TR: What is the one piece that best represents you as an artist?

JB: That's a tough one. At the Crossroads [2007, pictured] does represent where I am now. Just because in terms of the technique and handling of the paint — it's more how I'm working with the paint now, in terms of making it feel like a drawing material. Like crayon. There's no crayon in it — it's all oil paint — but I used a medium that makes it a little more tactile, like crayon.

And I've become really interested in trying to incorporate African mythology — not necessarily African images, but mythology that's not my own — into the work. The sort of trickster figure in the story — I was sort of thinking of images of Eshu, a trickster deity [in Yoruba mythology]. That was one of the ideas that started the story.

TR: Do you consider yourself to be a post-black artist?

JB: I don't really think about it. When I make the work, I'm thinking more about the story and how I'm going to paint it than I am the politics of it.


TR: Are there artists in the exhibit that have influenced or inspired you?

JB: I'm really honored to [have my work hanging next to the work of] Robert Colescott. He's been someone whose work has thrilled me from the time I was in art school. I actually got to meet him out in San Francisco, so I have a picture taken with him. I'm sort of thinking I should put it on my phone as my screensaver.


Check back over the next few days for more coverage of "30 Americans," which opens at Washington, D.C.'s Corcoran Gallery of Art on Oct. 1.

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Lauren is a former Deputy Editor of The Root.