Radiant Birds, A Suite of Objects by Max Maddox
Curated by Raymundo Muñoz and Anthony Garcia
Alto Gallery, April 8-30, 2022

A great hunter, naturalist, and journalist, John Audubon was perhaps the greatest bird painter of all time and their greatest witness. My only intention with Radiant Birds was to respond to his prints in Birds of America with all their complexity, to identify the love and violence within this masterpiece of art, science, and nature in rare harmony. My penwork brings a little “systematic chance” into the picture, a solitary game with a few architectural templates, and my pairings are meant to plushly adorn these prints, to memorialize the birds they portray with a few bird baths that anticipate some work to come “in the field.”

During Audubon’s time, before the invention of photography, he shot and killed these birds that he clearly loved in order to render them still enough to draw. He was an unrivaled observer but also a proud slave owner and a tragic positivist. I returned to this bird guide prompted, in part, by the theorist Baudrillard who drew lines around nature and knowledge that allowed me to think critically about post-capital freedom, and how to reach toward strictly unknown futures guided by nature and chance.

A few hand tools found their way here as well, reminders of old forms of labor, which we today leave behind to look at the birds. The hardest part of this project was to sit for a day and actually birdwatch, and it dawned on me how much “doing nothing” was forbidden by my habits, with a special kind of irony as my preparations for this show preoccupied me. This month, a window of time will be opened to the birds.

Bird Mirrors, 2022, steel plates, PCB transfers, bowls, plates, marble, construction beam, water, attachments.

Flamingo, 2022, bird guide, ink, watercolor, frame.

Snowy Egret with Birdbath, 2022, bird guide, ink, watercolor, frame; steel plate, steel bowl, chain, construction beam, attachments.

American Robin, 2022, bird guide, ink, watercolor. 

Pine Sisken with Silver Spoons, 2022, bird guide, ink, watercolor, frame; silver spoons, seeds, epoxy.

Connecticut Warbler with Brass Perch, 2022, bird guide page, ink, watercolor, frame; found assemblage, brass rod, copper ring, epoxy, attachments.

Cardinals with Augur’s Feeder, 2022, bird guide page, ink, watercolor; ceramic bird, game blocks, dried meal worms, seashells, acrylic sheet, laser print on transparency, wire rack, steel plate, ball bearings, attachments.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet with Bird Mirrors, 2022, bird guide page, ink, watercolor, frame; steel plates, PCB transfers, brackets, towel rack anchor, lens, metal bowl, epoxy, Rummikub pieces, attachments. 

Great Blue Heron, 2022, bird guide page, ink, watercolor.

Brown Pelican with Sniper’s Glasses and Bird Filters, 2022, bird guide page, ink, watercolor, frame; Civil War era sniper’s glasses, enlarger filters, nails.

Richardson’s Owl with Augur’s Perch, 2022, bird guide page, ink, watercolor, frame; stereo casing, stained glass, chisel handle, magnet, ball bearings, hourglass, shell, brass clip, epoxy.

Birder’s Shelf, bird guide pages, stereo casing, binoculars, service bell, stained glass, chain, attachments.

Sparrow Hawk and Broad-Winged Hawk with Bird Mirror, 2022, bird guide pages, ink, watercolor, frames; steel plate, PCB transfer, magnifying glass handle.

Audubons Caracara with Hammer Perches, 2022, bird guide page, ink, watercolor, frame; hammers.

Great Gray Owl, 2022, 2022, bird guide page, ink, watercolor, frame.

Sharp-Shinned Hawk with Screwdriver Perch, 2022, bird guide page, ink, watercolor, frame; screwdriver.

Flamingo Mirror, 2022, steel plate with PCB Transfer.