By Dee Dee Vega

When you enter the exhibition room for Banks Violette's installation at The Whitney Museum of Art, it is hard to imagine that his coldly genteel sculpture was the fruit of the artist working for months in a chemical suit slaving over 200 pounds of Red Cross salt and epoxy. Mr. Violette, a institutional favorite at last year's Biennial, is a sort of up and coming art wunderkind with an understanding of form that nods to high Minimalism and a masturbatory reverence for sensual and Baroque materials akin to that other masterful creepmeister Matthew Barney. His untitled installation was commissioned by the Whitney and consists of a audio component that sets the atmosphere for the large-scale sculpture of the frame of a burned and decrepit church fashioned from bonded salt set upon an onyx glasslike platform.

As the Whitney's wall text always aims high, they look to the likes of Romanticism and Casper David Freidrich for the aesthetic influence on Mr. Violette's construction. But, the pool that Violette is drawing from is Black Metal, a music genre known for it's dark and violent overtones. Violette, educated at The School of Visual Art and Columbia Graduate School certainly has the formal vocabulary and intellectual capacity to stand at an effete's distance from Black Metal culture while appropriating the imagery (this particular installation was drawn from an album cover). And to a certain degree, he seems to do just that citing a deeper interest in the cultural fear surrounding the music than an insider's ode to the genre. Black Metal has served as a continual inspiration for Violette's work in earlier painting and sculpture exhibitions that drew upon specific violent youth crimes attributed to listening to metal music.

A possible influence on Violette's work that has yet to be mentioned is that of tattooing. For a period before beginning his academic career, he worked as a tattoo artist. Any tattoo artist would be aware of the death metal, satanic, Paul Booth-helmed style wildly popular during Violette's tattooing years through today. No matter how you position Banks Violette's art, it seems to be a troubling mix of high concept, labor intensive work and decidedly "low brow" and high art influences that make for an oddly complex and surprisingly sophisticated aesthetic experience.

Banks Violette Untitled will be on display at The Whitney Museum of Art through 2 October, 2005.