May 22 - June 10, 2023
May 22 - June 10, 2023
Introducing a new series of drawings in pen, ink, and/or marker by Max Colby from 2023. Her recent drawings are derivative of historic Crewel embroideries, a popular embroidery technique and aesthetic seen primarily in Victorian England and Colonial America. Crewel embroidery and the works Colby references (pulled from public collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) feature primarily floral and landscape content, highlighting the prominent role that creating an updated geography through “natural history” was in justifying imperialism. Further complicated by the role embroidery had in these periods as a critical, refined element of a young girl’s education, Crewel embroidery allows us to consider the role of aesthetics in many social constructions such as taste, class, gender, femininity, high/low art, domesticity, and utility.
For over 10 years, this highly specific cultural and aesthetic reference has functioned in Colby’s practice as a starting point for considering parameters on research, materials, and the dialogues they are imbued with. An early entry point for rich material use on paper as well as sculptural application, Colby continues to return to the subject when in between large-scale sculptural projects to ground herself and refine visual language. Colby’s recent drawings provide an often-unseen glimpse into how works on paper function in her dimensional practice.
Max Colby (b. 1990, American) examines popular cultural codes embedded in mundane materials. For Colby, understanding material as a container for social and cultural constructions provides a critical framework through which to pull objects hyper-intentionally. It has informed her research approach for sculpture, installation, drawing, painting, and collage.
With this approach, Colby’s personal experience of various social expectations such as gender, class, and taste can be dissected, examined, critiqued, or embraced in the studio. She has often addressed personal and emotional topics indirectly through broader social examination, a process of making following research. What she engages has a personal evocation. Not necessarily in that the exact object has a directly personal history, but that it is culturally personal. Colby grew up in the Midwest surrounded by the objects in her work in a landscape of shopping, homes, celebrations, funerals, vigils, parties, night life, drag, performance, etc. Thinking of this another way, the arc of Colby’s practice from 2012 to the present can be read as a sort of academic investigation of self, humanity, and culture running parallel to her transition.
Known for her campy large-scale sculptures and installations, these works often give reference to an altar (They Consume Each Other) or funeral (Elegies and Shrouds). Colby’s connection to these sites which focus on the body and its relation to others engages conversations central to the human condition, such as assembly, commemoration, ritual, and celebration. Through play, the formal references to site are immediately broken by campy material use. Contemporary party supplies, hand beading, and an overall abundance of “low”, mundane, or “decorative” material juxtapose somber objects such as funeral wreaths and burial wrappings.
For Colby, fantasy, and abundance inherent in these materials allows for radical subversion. It is the foundation of her practice, tying a broad range of works and media together in a rich constellation of self- and cultural portraits.
Max Colby lives and works in New York City. In 2012, she received a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University. She has completed residencies at the Museum of Arts and Design, the Wassaic Project, MASS MoCA and a Leslie-Lohman Museum Fellowship. In support of her installations and sculptural work, Colby has received numerous research and project grants from Foundation for Contemporary Arts and YoungArts, among others.
Colby is internationally exhibited including Wave Hill, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling, Isabel Croxatto Galería, and Museum Rijswijk, among others. In 2022, Colby exhibited a campus-wide public commission at Rockefeller Center presented by Art Production Fund and ‘Revival’, her first solo exhibition at Shoshana Wayne Gallery in Los Angeles, CA.