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Maxwell Mustardo: The Substance of Style

September 14 - October 28


Green-Blue Chameleon Gadroon (Short), 2022
Glazed stoneware, PVC rubber coating.
45.7cm.H x 58.4W x 46.3D / 17.99in.H x 22.99W x 18.23D

 

It takes enormous vision and dedication to shape siren-like beauty out of thick, sticky mud – and yet for millennia we have done so. With each attempt, successive artists have refined techniques and developed possibilities in imaginative and often fantastical ways. Yet, despite all that evolution, certain forms seem almost immutable in their appeal and persistence; the simple cylinder, the enclosed vessel, the frequent invocation of gourd-like forms. Like a canvas, so limited in scale and form, they seem nonetheless to have room for infinite variation without losing the connection to the primary essence of the form. In Maxwell’s new body of work, he simultaneously embraces, and rebels from this tradition that he knows he can’t escape.

Maxwell’s first New York solo exhibition introduces his new monumental scale works as well as a series of new typologies of form, each referencing and reconfiguring historical ceramic forms that are already replete with multilayered references, notably the Gadroon and the Stack. A number of the works in the exhibition were recently included in his first solo museum show at the Hunterdon Museum of Art. This work has been supplemented and updated with a fresh range of human-scale anthropophora, glazed with technicolor mossy surfaces.

It is not hard to look at Maxwell’s new body of work and imagine it being pushed and pulled digitally like virtual putty on a monitor, given their comically bulging voluptuous profiles and shockingly saturated, glowing coloration. His aesthetic is perfectly attuned to our moment of ravenous digital excess all the while reminding us that the REAL remains unbeatable, as the mother of the virtual.

That mud, lowly mud could prove the superiority of the real, is deliciously satisfying. Not that this makes Maxwell a traditionalist by any stretch – coating his works in a candy shell of plastic, sprayed, foamy PVC and color shifting iridescent pigments, he pulls this mud into our synthetic modern day. The two materials are uncannily well suited; mud as the original, organic ‘plastic’ material and PVC as its purest, toxic embodiment. Before you become too comfortable with that yin-yang dance, Maxwell has snuck in traditional vitrified glaze surfaces almost indistinguishable from the fluffy PVC, perfectly embodying the disconcerting push-pull of our surface vs substance, analog vs digital existence. Maxwell’s ‘style’ is the synthesis and summation of our peculiar moment in history, which he captures with the aid of substantive skill, ingenious analysis and interpretation of historical forms, and executes with grace of a fish learning to swim.

 


Pink Stack, 2022
Glazed stoneware, PVC rubber coating.
61cm.H / 24in.H

 

 

Hunterdon Museum exhibition information at this link.

 



Purple Toroid, 2022
Glazed stoneware, PVC rubber coating.
38cm.H / 15in.H