Maximilian Toth‘s paintings focus in on the myths and stories we construct in youth – scenes of bravado, first sexual experiences, violent encounters – and recount to our peers. Those moments when we sought danger to establish glory. We all did it. And in Toth’s work he recounts his own on a slate black background that’s reminiscent of the classroom blackboard.
This is all about past life and the struggle of the young to become themselves, all those initiation rites you go through to reach adulthood. And like all rites of passage his tableaux involve some form of violence whether it be innocent, real, pretend or absurd. All of it relevant to the group dynamic.
The work itself is striking. The high contrast of white on black, the controlled use of colour, his quick drawing style – which invokes a speed, a quickness, a raw physicality – and in particular his framing which adds a dynamic element to each composition.It’s as if he wants you to dive in, he forces you to look. Here’s what he says about his work:
I make narrative work focused on the biographical and autobiographical snippets of my suburban upbringing. My stories focus on the liminal moments of youth that are within the coming of age moments recounted at every gathering and holiday to remind us of specific turning points and moments of overlapped experience that help create us as individuals and our views and beliefs. I attempt to find the germs of where these moments, often aggressive, begin; sparks of self-definition; the start of things that will become much more significant later. These stories move freely in time, truth, and morality keeping the past alive, informing the present and dictating the future. It seems that throughout history the same stories, arguably the same story, is being told and retold, only the punctuation and emphasis change. I have learned to ride a bike and had my first youthful carnal explorations in the same graveyard, which also boasts the bones of Louisa May Alcott, Thoreau, Emerson and Hawthorne.
The images chosen often focus on those events particular to our most animalistic humanity— our physical and sensual interactions with each other and the world around us. It seems that this part of our humanity is what’s laid bare in the transitional moments of our lives when we molt our moral narrative and assumptions and strike out to find the boundaries of our new mythologies How do you explain the beauty in watching a mailbox snapping off of its post and launching from the end of a bat in your hand while the car that carries you continues down the road?