Although Max has always been a creative individual, it was painting live around Los Angeles that gave him his chops and developed his distinct style. Being discovered online by the right people brought him across India, France, and Spain, where he painted in front of many audiences, met many local artists, and continued to develop his own unique perspective. Now he spends most of his time in his home town of LA, painting with his friends, and working in his studio to create new work for galleries across the country. Having seen the art scene of several different cities in several different countries, he is proud to be from Los Angeles, and continues to enjoy being one of the city’s premier contemporary artists.
1xRUN Thru Interview
Into Oblivion by Max Neutra
1xRun: Tell us a bit about the execution for these Into Oblivion pieces.
Max Neutra: Each bunny starts of as a pencil drawing on a sheet of half inch birch plywood. They are cut out using a jig saw or a band saw and given two coats of gesso. Next I paint the edges black and complete the line work. Next is the shading and pink in the ears. Next is the splatter and final touches. Each bunny is finished with two coats of varnish, first a gloss to help enhance the contrast in the colors, and last with a satin finish. After testing the balance of each bunny, I attach the wiring on the back for hanging, and a hinge that acts like a kick stand for the bunnies with a flat bottom. The last thing I do before I pack them up is sign, number, and date each bunny on the back.
1xRun: Can you tell us how the idea came about for these?
Max Neutra: My first bunny painting was created while exhausted at a late night dance party. I was painting on stage at a club. It was 2am, and I had a couple hours to go. I had already completed one big piece, but I had a second blank canvas, so I decided to do something different and fun. I looked out on the dance floor and saw all the crazy humans in their crazy outfits dancing the night away, and I thought “man, we are just going to dance ourselves right over the edge of the cliff. The end of the world will be a celebration. We will dance right into oblivion.” With the apocalypse and overpopulation on the brain, I painted a canvas filled with white rabbits, and one colored rabbit standing out from the crowd. A woman bought the piece at the end of the night, and immediately commissioned two more for her friends. After painting so many rabbits in a short time, I came to realize that I enjoyed painting them and started to explore different permutations. Up until the bunnies, my work was generally grotesque and my style was gonzo. Painting the bunnies became a new discipline in finding the perfect curve, and filling space with with repetitive yet random patterns. I felt that studying these bunnies could lead to mastering other curves, such as those of the coveted naked female form. The first cut out bunnies were created for an Art Battle I was supposed to participate in in Barcelona, Spain. I was planning on using them as extensions of a bunny painting I was going to execute in front of an audience as part of a competition. Unfortunately, the event was rained out and cancelled. I found myself with about 20 cardboard cutout bunnies that I did not want to waste, so I brought them home with me on the subway. I started setting them up on the train and in the station, and ended up posting them up all around the neighborhood I was staying in and setting them up in the street. People got a big kick out of them and were constantly stopping to chat with me about them. Once I saw what kind of a response the bunnies evoked, I knew I was onto something…
1xRun: How long did the piece take?
Max Neutra: They were created during June and July 2012. Each bunny has about two hours worth of work in them, if not more. There are so many different stages of the process! Drawing, cutting, sanding, gesso, paint, finish, hardware, signing. My wife thinks I’m crazy for not charging more.
1xRun: What is unique about this piece?
Max Neutra: Each bunny is unique and has it’s own personality. After having lived with some around the studio for a while, I can’t help but feel like they are almost pets. Because of the way that some of them can sit, rather than just hang on the wall, combined with the fact that each is a unique shape cut out of wood, there is a sculptural quality to them. They are more than mere paintings. They are objet d’art.
1xRun: Why should people buy these pieces?
Max Neutra: Supporting freelance artists is important beyond helping them eat and pay their bills. Artists are members of society that have a responsibility to explore new mental frontiers and bring new ideas to the masses. It’s like we are on Star Trek, making new discoveries on the outer edges of space and relaying our findings back to the home planet. Investing in an artist is investing in the conceptual growth and evolution of humanity. By purchasing artwork, you are making a statement declaring your understanding of the importance of ever broadening horizons.
1xRun: Describe these pieces in one gut reaction word.
Max Neutra: echoic.
1xRun: When did you first start making art?
Max Neutra: I’ve always been one of those creative types. Was drawing and painting since I was old enough to hold a brush. All of my schoolwork was covered in drawings. I was also into music since early on. I learned to play guitar, and later started producing electronic music, putting out a full length album called Automation Addiction in 2010.
1xRun: What was your first piece?
Max Neutra: Well, if you want to go way back to age four, there were pieces called “Man peeing while playing the drum” and “Mouse in the house”. I think the first piece of real emotionally driven pure art that I created as an adult and at the beginning of my pursuit of becoming an artist was called “No Faith in Humanity”. It was a tormented face, drawn in black and white with ink. A response to being stuck behind a bus in traffic.
1xRun: What artists inspired you early on?
Max Neutra: Super early influences were the eerie drawings of Edward Gorey and the creative creatures of Dr. Seuss. Later on R. Crumb and Todd Mc Farlane came into the mix. Next was Ralph Steadman (illustrator for Hunter S. Thomson books, among other things) and Gerald Scarfe (animations from Pink Floyd’s The Wall). And finally Klimt and Egon Schiele.
1xRun: What artists inspire you now?
Max Neutra: I think that there are so many mind bogglingly amazing artists doing things these days. My most recent discovery is Jeremy Geddes. I’m not usually into that kind of super clean and perfect painting, but his technique is immaculate, and his work has such a vibe to it. They bring up feelings in me that I usually only experience in dreams. I also have a special place in my heart for Skinner and his general amazingness. Zeloot for his colors and out there ideas. Let’s not forget the influence of my fellow LA artist friends. Maybe not a stylistic influence, but the camaraderie that comes from painting and growing with a group of artists is important. Michael Pukac, John Park, Mimi Yoon, Gregory Siff, Stephen Williams, L. Croskey, there are too many to list. I appreciate having them in my life.
1xRun: Do you listen to music while you work? If so what? If not then what is your environment like when you work?
Max Neutra: How many artists don’t listen to music when they paint!? Music has always been an important part of my life. I used to produce my own style of quirky retro electronic music using vintage noise toys and whatnot. It seems that I always have music going, no matter what I’m up to. My musical taste is across the board. As I write this I’m listening to Clark. I recently purchased the latest albums from Dirty Projectors and Rufus Wainwright (That’s right. I still pay for music. Don’t get me started.) Kate Bush. Nouvelle Vague. Tweak Bird. John Coltrane. Stan Getz. Jimmy Smith. Justice. Modern Jazz Quartet. One of my favorite albums to paint to is a little known record called The Days Of Mars by two artists named Delia Gonzalez and Gavin Russom.
1xRun: If you could collaborate with any living artist who would it be and why?
Max Neutra: This shifts for me depending on my mood, but lately I’ve been thinking about how fun it would be to do something with fellow LA artist Gregory Siff. We both seem to have similar philosophies about art and the process, and the fact that it would not be hard to make it a reality is appealing. I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of collaborating with someone I don’t now. There are plenty of amazing artists out there, but unless we understand each other, it would be hard to get creative together. Of course, collaborating with someone like Damien Hirst or Jeff Koons would be fun because of giant the budget we would have to work with.
1xRun: If you could collaborate with any deceased artists who would it be and why?
Max Neutra: I think another version of this question is “If you could hang out with any deceased artist…”. I’d want to hang out with Picasso. He seems like he might have been a fun guy to be around.
1xRun: What was the first piece of art that you bought? Do you still have it?
Max Neutra: Tough one. Does that Wolverine poster I bought in Junior High count? Still have it.
1xRun: What was the last piece of art that you bought?
Max Neutra: A small piece called Zebra Penis by Airom Bleicher. It’s an oil painting of a zebra penis, but half the reason I bought it is because he wrote “zebra penis” on the back, as if it wasn’t obvious. It’s a nice addition to my closet gallery where I hang small strange work. Got a couple pieces by homeless people in there. Some fan art. Work by my mom. Jesus monsters in fishnet stockings. Rats smoking cigarettes. Pigs licking up menstrual blood. General debauchery.
1xRun: What else have you been up to and else do you have in the works?
Max Neutra: I have a new limited edition print that should be out just before this 1xrun release. It’s called “Communion”. The original is a 6x8ft Giraffe. Beyond that, there’s some walls I’m painting around town for various business, and some group shows and live painting gigs. The main thing on my mind is the upcoming solo show at Cave Gallery in January. We sold out my show there last January, so I will be working hard to earn more success and come back strong with some new tricks up my sleeve…