Maxwell Loren Holyoke-Hirsch wants you to see his studio. But since it's weird to invite strangers into one's personal space, he has set up a condensed version of it inside Fecal Face Dot Gallery and called it Megarealms. There is a shelf full of objects, and ladders stacked with supplies. Artwork is clustered on the walls, suggesting an economy of space riddled with installation experiments. There are paintings you can't get a good look at because they're hidden behind other things -- maybe because the artist wants you to know he made them -- he's just not sure he wants you to see them.
The shelf installation is chaotic but somehow seems organized. There are figures made of crude materials like metal scraps and wound-up newspaper. Scattered among them are vibrantly painted wood chunks and found objects including an asthma inhaler not too far from a cigarette, which are both painted over with an opaque brown color like most of the objects in the show's installation pieces. Seeing everyday objects like funnels, soap bottles, and cans painted in a monochrome shade forces you to consider them as unified objects rather than distinctive packages, or brands, or tools of the trade.
Holyoke-Hirsch seems to be compelled to make things, and this obsessive nature is apparent in his latest work. While some viewers might see the installation as a random pile of junk, others might see a visual poetry, sensing how each object was placed at least somewhat deliberately.
Resin is layered over many of the paintings in the show, protecting their fragile materials, which include cheap paint, pen, pastels, and scraps of blue painters' tape. The artist's line work is simple but incredibly expressive. A shoe or a hairdo are represented as one blob of color but are still distinct and familiar. It occurred to me while looking at his work that Holyoke-Hirsch could be the three-way lovechild of artists Alexander Calder, Joan Brown, and Chris Johanson. For me, his art evokes several different eras. The timelessness of his drawing style is probably one of the reasons he's also had a successful career as a commercial illustrator.
I recently heard Albert Reyes, an artist who uses similar installation techniques, talk about the fact that he's not making individual bodies of work, but rather everything he makes contributes to one life-long series. I get the same feeling from Holyoke-Hirsch's work. Experimentation with materials is key to this approach, and the artist seems to be on his way to creating one mega long series of Megarealms for us to navigate.
Megarealms is on view at Fecal Face dot Gallery in San Francisco through November 28th, 2009.