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SF CHRONICLE, Saturday, May 12, 2012

review by Kenneth Baker




String Drag Diptych, 2006.  C. 12 x 36 x 4 inches



Maxim's moment: While San Francisco painter David Maxim continues to await the museum retrospective he deserves, Sandra Lee provides a congested synopsis of what it might encompass.

The overcrowded installation makes more vivid the variety of things Maxim has made in recent decades. A portfolio of drawings, viewable on request, affirms that product lines are the only lines he has not mastered.

The most startling recurrent motif in Maxim's work: his habit of attaching to a piece, almost as punctuation marks, one or more of the tools used in its making.

"String Drag Diptych #1" (2006) offers a handsome example. Here Maxim attached strings to the outer side edges of two small abutted, stretched canvases, painted white. A paint-stained wooden stick - fixed to the finished work - anchors each row of parallel strings.

Even with this demonstrative information, it remains unclear just how the work was made. Slurries of black paint stripe the canvas surfaces, seeming to flow toward their juncture. But these marks blur as much as they articulate the process of the work's making.

"String Drag Diptych #1" also exemplifies a mingling of humor and gravitas characteristic of Maxim's art. It broaches the weirdly post-minimalist notion of tools as unreliable narrators. His incorporation of crude marionettes into many works invites - or at least does not discourage - such a literary reading.

The "Diptych" may also allude to the "Three Standard Stoppages" (1913), purportedly standard measures that Marcel Duchamp made by tracing dropped strings.

But whatever interpretation it may support, "String Drag Diptych #1" has another quality typical of Maxim's art: a rich physicality.

To discover how this quality manifests itself as Maxim changes scale, materials, techniques and expressive strategies makes any survey of his art worth seeing.

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