Skip to Content

Russell Maltz, Painted/Stacked 2014 – Conveyance

Felice Grodin

Installation View of Russell Maltz's Painted/Stacked 2014 - Conveyance. Photo courtesy of Oriol Tarridas.

Alejandra Von Hartz Gallery
April 10 – June 7, 2014

The work of Russell Maltz hovers in the fragile beats between two frequencies. One is the mark-making impulse of the human, while the other is the homogenous system of distribution of the inhuman. In his assemblages of generic building materials—concrete masonry units (cmu), metal studs, PVC pipes, and plywood—there are actions and operations rather than conceptual compositions. Thus the show title situates Maltz’s work as neither self-consciously elevated nor counterproductive. Rather, to paint or to stack are procedures that in Maltz’s case explore intensive and extensive properties borrowing from the logistics and processes of his mediums. The materials he uses are manufactured in large quantities, packaged in bulk, shipped globally, distributed locally, and become anonymous within the modular mainframe of “building.” But to be fair, there is something more going on here: an infiltration of the human within the inhuman.

This flow of materials is indifferent to temporality, locality, and individuality, or in the case of the art viewer, feelings. This is not the space of discrete object making but rather situations composed of densely woven fields dispersed within paths of least resistance. Maltz hijacks materials from within this flow, specifically materials that are meant to be sublimated as building infrastructure. Like the networks that produce them, they are invisible to us. But look beneath the surface of appearances and they reside as the modular cells of architectural DNA. Maltz takes strands out of these chains and begins to scramble the code.

For example, several pieces of plywood are hung on steel pegs as if procured as genetic samples folded in from a hovering loop of virtual and physical algorithms. They are not meant as found objects or solitary moments, but temporal bulges in the loop that are given a torqued perspective. As Maltz applies a partial layer of paint to each sample within the cluster, a new synthetic assemblage is produced. The work simultaneously flickers between the material properties of its makeup and the partial masking of it in lieu of painting. Difference and repetition creates a third condition whereby a new layer of information enters the fray, like series of food colored drops under a microscope.

As opposed to Minimalism or even Post-Minimalism, Painted/Stacked can be viewed as something beyond the field of the gallery or even landscape—perhaps a Para-Minimalism. If Minimalism circumscribed the procedural by expressions of reductive syntax, and Post-Minimalism introduced chance in expanding notational fields, then what of Para-Minimalism? In Minimal and Post-Minimal work, there is still the bracketing from the secular, or a gestalt impetus to heed to a “greater good.” In Para-Minimalism—in Maltz’s case in particular—there is a direct engagement with the market system. It tactically runs parallel, beside, perhaps accelerating along specific trajectories and in the process inflecting the path, albeit temporarily. In a recent documentary of Maltz’s public work, various sites of construction intercept his day-glo marked materials back into the process…disassembling, dissolving, and eventually returning back into the mainframe. Therefore, the building blocks of global capital contain both physical and virtual units, micro and macro in scale. Like overlapping fractals that weave tendrils through our planet’s coordinate system, they selectively touch the ground to deposit things in our world. In Maltz’s case, one wonders if along the way a mutation or a virus might surface that leaves an outward trace from within.