Complicated Contradictions: Mike Maxwell
July 2 - July 25, 2020
By JUAN MARCO TORRES, August 2020
There is something about Mike Maxwell’s art that feels deeply personal. It is not that the often psychedelic-colored subjects are, at first glance, familiar to us. Instead, the pieces take a much deeper dive into the murky waters of the subconscious. His paintings set us on a journey through these waters, inviting us to explore its many (and often illusive) sides. Maxwell’s paintings might not be the most direct in their meaning, because he paints with intuition and a visually arresting dream logic. Including a collection of multi-colored portraits that blur the lines of reality, Maxwell clearly does not seek much validation from the established art world crowd. His art is about rule-bending, igniting profound questions about what we believe to be real in our own lives.
In a recent conversation with the self-taught artist, Maxwell and I discussed his newly found approach to his art and his highly anticipated, no-theme, journalistic approach to his first solo exhibition in over ten years at the bG Gallery, titled Complicated Contradictions, now showing in Santa Monica.
“Complicated Contradictions is two years worth of work, the longest amount of time I've had to put a show together. It is figurative work, a lot of portraiture. There is a lot of deep intuition. It has led me to experiment more with abstractions,” Maxwell tells me. One of the instant standouts from his latest exhibition is the piece titled Burnt Bridges Broken Hearts. The beautiful acrylic portrays a kaleidoscopic vision of what seems to be a masked protester, holding some sort of explosive device. Notice the emphasis on the uncertainty of Maxwell’s subject, because nothing is set in stone in his work. “The show is not themed at all. I look at my work like a dream state,” says Maxwell. “There are a lot of things that are metaphors for things that no one else would understand. You know when you have a person in your dream that represents that one particular person but looks like another? You only know intuitively for sure what it symbolizes. There is a lot of that in my work. Often the subjects have nothing to do with who the portrait is of.”
No matter what story the viewer comes up with in their mind, Maxwell’s work acts as a sort of antenna, a conduit for our subconscious to come into the surface. How does our psyche translate what our eye sees? Burnt Bridges Broken Hearts, in particular, speaks volumes in light of what has been occuring in our world lately: a massive collective awakening that has put most leaders, institutions, and power structures in some serious doubt. Pieces like Burnt Bridges Broken Hearts undoubtedly have a rawness to them, where evidently the artist has let himself bare his soul. Apart from being anarchic, the painting is also deeply moving and emotional. It makes us feel both anger at the abuse of power and also sympathy for the subject. What else could the painting represent besides the people’s against their corrupt governments? We could see it as a reflection of what is occurring within ourselves. It is as if Maxwell’s work is the balancing act between sorrow and joy, representing a timely reconciliation of the wide spectrum of emotions in realities—finally delivering us into our unique sovereignty.
As we take a further look into Maxwell’s work, the pieces venture more and more into the bizarre. The lines between what is real and fantasy blur in pieces like The state of mankind. This portrait shows a four-eyed human face that is distorted in a frenzy of different patterns and textures, solely in black and white. We are left wondering where the face starts and finishes, genderless, fluid, and surreal. Its title unveils a lot unto what the artist might be trying to say. In a way, the portrait is a very accurate representation of the current state of affairs on Earth. We are living on the edge of history, with our opinions getting increasingly polarized and the planet’s melting pot of cultures and perspectives intensifying by the minute. What is important to notice is that no matter how different the texture of pattern, they all constitute the same face. It is these very differences that complement the piece so well. Could we see the world in that same way? A lot of what we thought was real just seems to continue to be dissolving, and our questions and conversations lead us to new perspectives.
The only fixed truth in Maxwell’s newest solo exhibition is the authenticity in the expression of his dream world and the evolution of his work through it. With Complicated Contradictions, Maxwell is no longer interested in following any kind rules. The artist is a wonderful representation of a new generation that is not interested in what is right or wrong. Instead, Maxwell wants us to take a closer look beyond dichotomy into the inmost part of our psyches, getting in touch with intuition and coming to peace with many different perspectives occurring at once.
“I’ve learned that I am continuously wrong,” says Maxwell. “I look at my work like a journal. It’s like a time machine. I remember the pointed moments of that timeframe. It reminds me about who I was and allows me to evolve. I think we all change so quickly, and these works allow me to remember who I was.”
For more, follow Mike Maxwell on Instagram: @mikemaxwellart.
To visit the bG Gallery or view Complicated Contradictions online, visit here: http://www.santamonica.bgartdealings.com/mike-maxwell/. WM
Juan Marco Torres is a writer-astrologer-stylist currently based in Los Angeles.