Critic's Choice

John Bankston's surreal storytelling on parade at Walter Maciel Gallery

In his latest exhibition at Walter Maciel Gallery, John Bankston continues his exploration of a mysterious personal mythology and one’s relationship to making art. Although this outing feels a lot like his last show at the gallery in 2013, Bankston’s work still piques the imagination.

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One sequence involves a magical hat, which leads to an encounter with a device that appears to be an agglomeration of abstract shapes. However, for the most part, the men (and they are all men) seem content to stand around, simply declaring themselves in all their eccentric glory. They are clad in furry animal costumes, military dress with epaulets or cloaks and flat blue masks.

In “Mysterious Machine,” three variously costumed men stand next to a sculpture composed of abstract shapes. Such devices, which appear in multiple works and which Bankston has dubbed “Abstracticators,” seem to stand in for the art-making process, a character in and of itself.

In “Small Hybrid 5” the device has merged completely with a man, who seems to wear it like armor, his face the only indication of his humanity. Still, the man is not alarmed by this takeover, accepting his new body with equanimity. In such gestures, Bankston asserts an ever expansive, evolving sense of self.

Walter Maciel Gallery, 2642 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 839-1840, through Dec. 23. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.waltermacielgallery.com

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