Recommended Bushwick Open Studio: Max Razdow

by Paddy Johnson and Whitney Kimball on May 31, 2012 · 1 comment AFC Goes To Bushwick

Max Razdow (Studio View)

NAME: Max Razdow
MEDIUM: Ink drawings, oil and acrylic paintings, text, sculptures
STUDIO LOCATION: 17-17 Troutman St., #315
BUSHWICK OPEN STUDIO HOURS: Friday June 1st, 2012, 6pm-10pm, Saturday June 2nd, 2012, 12pm-7pm, Sunday June 3rd, 2012, 12pm-7pm
TIME IN BUSHWICK: 3 years
SHARED STUDIO: Yes, 9 artists are in our unit.

[Editor’s note: Over the next three days we’ll be recommending artist studios we think readers should visit during Bushwick Open Studios this weekend, providing interviews with selected artists and compiling it into handy AFC maps you all can use to get around. We know the size of this event can be a little overwhelming. Hopefully, our work will make navigating the Bushwick terrain a little easier.]

Gatherings of expressionistic figures communing in mythical settings define Max Razdow’s paintings and drawings. While some of his pen and ink drawings verge on storybook as in the “Future Myths” series, others are weirder, and more open to interpretation. “Man Speaking (to computer),” is one such a example, as we have no idea how to interprete a barrel-chested figure shooting blue mist out of his mouth into a black triangle. In addition to having exhibited multiple times in Belgium and Brooklyn, Max Razdow shows with Freight + Volume.

Something about this work reminds me of the drawings of Justin Storms. His drawings are a little more cautious I think, but there’s a very similar sensibility there. Almost folklore–ish. Do you know the artist? What artists are you looking at? 

I don’t know Justin, but I like his drawings. I think a lot about folklore and myth-making, and maybe we both have an interest in that: engaging with a polyphony of symbolism, taking meaning and working additively to come upon a work’s theme. Maybe another similarity is a desire to formulate visual occurrences as narrative images, pushing them into the realm of stories or poems. Some of my favorite artists are science fiction and fantasy writers, because they are free to investigate extremely challenging hypothetical situations, as philosophers or mystics, but are also able to tap fully into an epic narrative space, which I think precipitates the essence of change in one’s life. I probably would say that science fiction writers are my singular greatest influence, though I look at a lot of art, certainly!

Your recent painting series looks Icelandic: in addition to “Man Speaking (to computer),” you’ve got a sparsely-wooded forest scene and two figures ripping into a shark belly under a large moon. Did your recent trip to Iceland inform the recent work?

Some of those paintings were underway before I went to Iceland this past Fall (as a resident of the Hafnarborg Museum, near Reykjavik). When I got there, though, I felt both at home and awestruck by Iceland’s natural environment, and it did redouble an attachment to investigating the phenomenological spaces where the self and nature intersect. I also had a lot of opportunity to see Icelandic art while I was there, and I found that some of it really reshaped my thinking about my own work in ways I wasn’t expecting. I was inspired by the conversational feeling of their imagery and their comfort with communicating through story and humor in a way that went beyond concept or aesthetics. When I came back to New York, I started drawing using a “figure first” approach to attempt this in my work (these became the series Techniques of Artists). It was from one of these drawings that the shark painting was generated. This particular image became very special to me, as a herald of the idea of humanness and communication overcoming a sublime that denotes distance and impossibility. The naked figures in it are singing and dancing and sculpting from the multiplicity that hides in the belly of the intractable beast.

The text in your book Techniques of Artists reads like parables. Is there a specific message you want readers to take home?

Techniques of Artists investigates the interaction of people with various objects and spaces, which are both catalysts and obstacles to their intentions. I don’t really think of the figures in the works as artists per se, but find that they are striving for some sort of peculiar (but pointed) resolution via these seemingly nonsensical actions, which sometimes reminds me of myself and other art makers.  The later drawings focus on groups of individuals who are at times enabled by creative agency and togetherness, and at other times statically tethered to systems. The pragmatic urgency and lack of teleology in the figures’ actions is potent, but as a kind of magic needs to be wielded carefully, so an investigation of outcomes occurs in the texts. The parables that accompany the images are simply tales of these outcomes and their coming to being by the symbols in the works; they have less to do with an overarching message than an interest in the specific, minute meanings of the particularities of a figure’s posture, a reach toward a stone, etc. I guess, perhaps, attention to the immensity of a small gesture, or a remapping of artistic practice onto a general populace, might have a greater message when taken as a whole, but really my intent was mostly to catalog the “practices” of these Artists as they came to be. I will publish an expanded book of Techniques with Atlantic Conference Press this summer, maybe I will figure it out then!

What music do you listen to in the studio?

All kinds of music. My favorite thing in the studio is to listen to the local college and independent radio stations (WFUV, WKCR, WNYU, etc.); I like finding out new things.

[Art Fag City Bushwick Open Studios coverage is generously supported by the Brooklyn Arts Council and reader donations.] 

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