Margaret and Eliza

Margaret and Eliza, 2023, found rugs.

Powers of the House (tableau vivant), 2023, video, 7 hours 55 minutes. Projected for the exhibition Ambits: The Greene Fellowship Exhibition, Redline Contemporary Art Center, Denver.

Thumbscrew and the Stake, 2023, projected video, 12 minutes.

Postcards, 2023, engraved pearlescent cardstock, 5 editions of 20, photos by Brenda Magsamen.

“Max Maddox is represented in the exhibition by a suite of performance-oriented projects that test the parameters of public space while advancing his questioning of "inherited conceptions about what art can be," the discourse about it, and where and how these conversations might occur. The work extends his investigation of temporary, object-based interventions onto the surfaces of urban light posts, railings, concrete plinths and the like that commenced in Philadelphia in 2006 and then continued in Denver in 2021. These recent performances were initiated by his discovery of two faux-fur rugs in a dumpster. The effort required to carry the unwieldy pair to his nearby studio immediately disclosed their uncanny volatility and potential to be read simultaneously as blanket, cloak, fleece, and dwelling. In addition to encouraging the formation of unexpected personae, they elicited spontaneous interactions with passers-by, the immediacy and authenticity of which could never be replicated in the filtered context of an institutional venue. Hauling the rugs and enveloped inside them—with one as a mat and other as a kind of garment or tarp—generated a repertoire of unscripted behaviors that Maddox began to capture on video as well as still photographs, sometimes with the assistance of his friend, Brenda Magsamen. Powers of the House (tableau vivant), 2023, presents approximately 90 minutes of footage shot late in the afternoon on a median strip, documentation that is stretched by slow motion to a duration of nearly eight hours. Through a gap in this makeshift shelter, the viewer can occasionally glimpse Maddox peeking at the camera on the tripod before him but unable to see most of the activity around him. Maddox becomes a creature, a "caveman," an anonymous "philosopher-poet," as well as a blank screen onto which we and the public project myriad assumptions and fears. The video includes one exceptionally telling passage where a motorist offers Maddox two bottles of water, a moment that hints at the scope of the charged interactions generated by Maddox's use of the rugs, including inquiries with law enforcement that were resolved by Maddox pointing to the camera as the justification for his activity. The time-lapse footage of Thumbscrew and the Stake (2023), filmed during a single visit to Washington Park, provides a more comprehensive sampling of the variety of conduct and sites Maddox tested, including footage of him disappearing and reappearing in the crowd like the grim reaper no one seems to notice. The divergent treatments of time offered by the two videos complement each other while also withholding the sense of actual durations experienced by Maddox while performing, a reminder that the real--and irretrievable--experiences of this work occurred in the medium of the shared space of the public commons.”

-Richard Torchia, curator of Ambits, the Greene Fellowship Exhibition