Max Greis (b. 1981) is a New York-based artist working with imaginary landscapes in multimedia techniques. He completed a BFA at the School of Visual Arts in 2005 and a MFA at Hunter College in 2014, which granted him a Hunter travel grant to study the works of Bosch and Bruegel in Madrid, Vienna and Berlin. Greis is currently making his Young Masters debut at the Lluis Barba | Travellers in Time & Young Masters’, 4 – 22 November 2015, at Site/109, New York.
My body of work is rooted within the artistic traditions of photo collage and landscape painting. I employ the Dada and Surrealist method of juxtaposition to achieve a hallucinatory vision through space and time. Breton’s notion of “convulsive beauty” is utilized in my work, both in subject matter and formal composition, where a dream-like, otherworldly atmosphere emerges out of real subject matter combined in unreal ways. My stylization and perspective have been greatly influenced by a range of landscape traditions, including Chinese hand scrolls, Japanese woodblock printing, and Persian miniatures, among others. Northern Renaissance masters, specifically Bruegel and Bosch, inspire the hyper-detailed composition and apocalyptic narrative. Replacing the religious symbolism and iconography, I utilize the modern lexicon of photography, serving as both visual and symbolic language, universally understood yet individually interpreted. My body of work also continues the American tradition of speaking through landscape, as exemplified by the Hudson River School.
My video work evolved directly out of my two-dimensional collage paintings, as an attempt to achieve the idea of a literal “moving landscape”. Instead of still photos for the collage, I gather and use video clips from documentary source material, ranging from nature to war to history subjects. The scenes are combined, looped, and blended together seamlessly on the computer, retaining the consistency of one solid landscape, while simultaneously being alive with movement. When the overall video collage is complete, it’s then projected on top of a painted panel. This literally creates a moving landscape painting, combining the movement of video with the physical hand-made quality of painting.
The video is projected on top of a panel, which has been painted in a gestural, almost impressionistic method. The result merges the movement and light of the video projection, on top of the pigment and gesture of the painted panel, producing a vivid glowing effect. This also enables the work to hang in different external lighting conditions, actually giving the piece a distinct look depending on how dark or light the room gets. Combined with the sound, the overall effect creates what seems to be a living, breathing painting.
Samsara means the repeating cycle of birth, life and death (reincarnation). Samsara (2014) is created with collage and acrylic paint on panel. The subject matter and perspective both refer to Asian landscape traditions. The piece employs a floating non-linear perspective, pulling the viewer’s gaze back, allowing the eye to wander from one scene to another. Ascending hills, floating mist, and crashing waterfalls all combine to link the piece together cohesively. Although intricately painted and detailed, gestural brushwork is readily visible in much of the water, mist, and sky.
For me, collage is not only a means to an end but an essential way of thinking about the world. I consider America, and New York City in particular, as living collages of people and cultures. This is what informs my work and shapes much of my world outlook. Not only do I utilize collage to cut and glue paper or merge video with painting, but I also use it to combine artistic styles and ways of composing. By crossing elements from various artistic traditions, spanning time and space, I work to create a new hybrid art form of my own design. – Max Greis, 2015