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CELINE ART PROJECT 

BANKS VIOLETTE 


EVERY ERA HAS ITS DEFINING FIGURES, AND IN THE CONDENSED NEW YORK ARTWORLD OF THE EARLY AUGHTS, BANKS VIOLETTE WAS FOREMOST AMONGST THEM. OF THE MANY CURRENTS RUNNING THROUGH THAT SCENE, VIOLETTE’S WAS THE DARKEST AND MOST STRINGENT. BROKEN DRUM-SETS, SKELETAL ARCHITECTURES AND VACATED STAGES SPLINTERED BY SHARDS OF WHITE, FLUORESCENT LIGHT AND SET TO THE SUBSONIC UNDERTOW OF DEATH METAL’S SOCIETAL ANGST CAPTURED THE ZEITGEIST OF AN ERA’S PRECARIOUS BALANCE OF NIHILISM AND CELEBRATION. DRAWING FROM MUSIC, ART, THEATRE AND FASHION, VIOLETTE’S ART TOOK THE FORM OF A BAROGRAPHIC TRACE RECORDING THE PRESSURE THAT WAS THE SLOW IMPLOSION OF EVERYTHING AROUND IT - PRESSURE THE ARTIST EVENTUALLY SUCCUMBED WITHDRAWING FROM THE WORLD HE’D HELPED DEFINE. 


DRAWN TO THE INCANDESCENT ENERGY OF THAT MOMENT, HEDI SLIMANE WAS BOTH DOCUMENTARIAN AND PARTICIPANT IN THIS SEMINAL NEW YORK MOMENT. HIS STARK BLACK AND WHITE IMAGES OF THE ARTISTS PERFECTLY CAPTURED THE TAUGHT MASCULINITY AND ABSOLUTE ABANDON OF HIS ARTIST PEERS.
IN JULY OF 2007 HE CURATED A GROUP SHOW TITLED “SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH”, AT ARNDT & PARTNER IN BERLIN, FEATURING THE WORKS OF ARTISTS DASH SNOW, SLATER BRADLEY, MATHEW CERLETTY, DAN COLEN, GARDAR EIDE EINARSSON, TERENCE KOH, DOUGLAS KOLK, NATE LOWMAN, RYAN MCGINLEY, MATT SAUNDERS, STEVEN SHEARER, PAUL P., AND BANKS VIOLETTE. LATER THAT YEAR, “YOUNG AMERICAN” AT THE FOAM FOTOGRAFIEMUSEUM IN AMSTERDAM, PAID PHOTOGRAPHIC TRIBUTE TO THE SAME GENERATION OF ARTISTS. 


AFTER THE BEST PART OF A DECADE SEQUESTERED IN UPSTATE NEW YORK, VIOLETTE HAS BEGUN A CAUTIOUS RE-ENGAGEMENT WITH THE WORLD HE LEFT BEHIND. WITH THE INDELIBLE LEGACY OF THAT EARLY PERIOD MORE RELEVANT THAN EVER, VIOLETTE’S WORK IS REAPPEARING IN GALLERIES, MUSEUMS AND NOW IN THE CONTEXT OF SLIMANE’S RE-IMAGINING OF THE CELINE FLAGSHIP STORES. THE SYNERGY BETWEEN ARTIST AND DESIGNER HAS BEEN LONGSTANDING. “THE THING THAT I’VE ALWAYS ADMIRED ABOUT HEDI IS THAT EVEN WHEN THE APPROACH IS DECONSTRUCTED, THERE ISN’T ANY CRITICAL REMOVE OR DETACHMENT. THERE’S A GENUINE SINCERITY TO HIS INVESTMENT IN THE THINGS HE ADMIRES. AS A RESULT, HE CAN TRANSFORM SOMETHING THAT IS PERMANENTLY FRAMED AS IRONIC INTO ITS OPPOSITE.” 


THE CHANDELIER STRUCTURES CREATED FOR THE STORES, ARE CLASSIC VIOLETTE. THE REPEATED MODULAR FORMS TAKE THE MINIMALIST FRAMEWORKS OF DAN FLAVIN OR SOL LE WITT AND PUSHES THEM INTO A DECONSTRUCTED STATE OF THEATRICAL COLLAPSE. VIOLETTE LIKENS THEM TO A FIGURE WHO HAS STUMBLED AND FALLEN. THEY ARE AN IMAGE OF OVERDOSE, EQUAL PARTS NARCOTIC COLLAPSE AND NARCAN REVIVAL. “I RELATE TO SCULPTURE AS THIS THING THAT EXTENDS ITSELF INTO THE SPACE OF A BODY SO IT’S OF NECESSITY ANTHROPOMORPHIZED – AND SO AUTOBIOGRAPHICALLY I WAS LIKE YEAH I KNOW ALL ABOUT THAT...” THE RESULTING SCULPTURES PERFECTLY CAPTURE THE EMOTIONAL TENOR OF THE TIMES: “IT’S AS IF ARISTOTLE WAS RAISED IN A WARZONE WHICH HE PROBABLY WAS, AND THE POETICS OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER MEET THE AESTHETICS OF BOREDOM.” ADD TO THAT FASHION AND RETAIL, AND THE MEETING IS UNLIKE ANY OTHER. 

WRITER: NEVILLE WAKEFIELD