The Marin Museum of Contemporary Art in Novato, California, presents LEGENDS OF THE BAY AREA, honoring artists whose exhibition history and dedication to art education and mentoring have left a significant imprint on the local, national, and international art world. This year’s exhibition features San Francisco artist David Maxim. Maxim’s work has been described as “heroic” or “theatrical,” and while those adjectives describe much of the work on display, the MarinMOCA exhibition focuses primarily on the way Maxim’s work engages, suggests, or reveals the human figure. At one end of the spectrum, Maxim’s monumental, non-representational, mixed media paintings take on a bodily presence through their size, often with 3-dimensional components that reach out to the viewer. Other mixed media paintings include mark making and shapes that dynamically suggest the gestures of the human body, for example, a simple combination of rectangles and spheres hinting at a reclined figure. Finally, several of Maxim’s works include 3-dimensional figures extending from the picture plane to crawl across the canvas or participate in a tug-of-war, hanging like marionettes in front of a dramatically painted canvas that provides an emotional tone even as it resists placing the action in a particular location. The setting for the figurative artworks, whether a wall piece or sculpture-in-the-round, remains a mystery for the viewer, although Maxim can’t resist bringing his art historical knowledge to bear on his artwork, as in Blind Leading the Blind, which makes reference to the Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel. Figures, particularly the anonymous, faceless ones that populate Maxim's work, stand in metaphorically for philosophical notions of the human condition, and Maxim seems to consciously construct situations that represent common struggles. The figure in The Elusive Thought attempts to cast a net, although the target remains unclear. The figure in A View of the World looks up into space through a framed and vision-limiting screen. Even when pointing to struggles, however, Maxim’s work is classically beautiful, reminding viewers of our connections rather than our differences. It is this deft balance between theatrical expressionism and conscious serenity that makes for an artistic legend.
David Maxim’s work has been shown throughout California, across the United States, and into Europe. Born in Los Angeles in 1945, he received a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Art History from the University of California, Los Angeles and taught art history at California State University, Los Angeles, UC Santa Barbara, and Santa Barbara City College before moving to San Francsico in 1976. At CSU Hayward and the San Francisco Art Institute, he taught art history for the studio artist, and in 1979 participated in the exhibition “New Bay Area Images” at the Oakland Museum, solidifying his place in the Bay Area art world. He received an Artist Residency at the Dorland Mountain Colony in the 1980s, and a Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation Grant in the 1990s. His work is displayed at Universities and in private collections in the U.S. and Europe.