Steve Banks: Pop Culture Palimpsest


Great art has dreadful manners. The greatest paintings grab you in a headlock, rough up your composure, and then proceed, in short order, to re-arrange your reality.  —Simon Schama

This June, the Figge Art Museum will present a comprehensive installation by Quad Cities artist Steve Banks. Like an archaeologist digging through layers of pop culture ash, Banks uncovers iconic examples of high and low art which he then rearranges and re-covers in complex and entertaining constructions.

In a visual mash-up of the familiar icons of art history and the TV shows, comic books and movies of his youth, Banks’s constructions acknowledge, for better and worse, the mass media’s headlock-like influence on our tastes. Through his use of pungent color schemes and a distinct iconographic style, Banks creates a palimpsest of personal memories revealing through its layers a wry social commentary.

The exhibition’s title, Pop Culture Palimpsest, refers to Medieval manuscripts in which one text or image is effaced and replaced by a new one, leaving a trace of the original and a record of layered information. Incorporating overlapping layers of painted, collaged, and carved elements, Banks’s constructions are the artist’s attempt to assert his identity against the mass media’s barrage on our senses.

As Banks has stated, our “search for identity often turns into commentaries about how we miraculously form meaningful… interpersonal relationships while our souls… bob haplessly on an isolating sea of cultural white noise.” 

Read the artist's blog to learn more, and view progress photos of his artwork. 

Steve Banks website

On view June 9-September 2, 2018


Companion Events  
Thurday, May 31 • 6:30 p.m. Artist Talk
Thursday, July 12 • 6:30 p.m. Artist Talk

image: Steve Banks, Mystaphorical Parfait, mixed media on canvas, Courtesy of the artist