Max Gimblett. The Alchemist

23 May 2024 – 23 Jun 2024

Regular hours

10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00

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Bienvenu Steinberg & J is honored to present The Alchemist, a show of recent paintings by Max Gimblett. The exhibition’s focus is on the 88-year-old artist’s iconic quatrefoil canvases that are noteworthy both for the spiritual universality of their form and for their sumptuous use of color, light, and precious metals. In a text addressed to the artist, Lewis Hyde, scholar and essayist, writes, “You take gold to be a sign of consciousness, of alchemical transformation, of the precious and sublime…The precious metal in your work is to be understood spiritually, not literally; it bespeaks the promise of psychic transformation and healing. It is a joining of opposites.”

The Alchemist is the artist’s first solo appearance in New York in more than a decade. Born in New Zealand in 1935, Gimblett traveled extensively before settling in New York in 1972. His work draws on a broad range of aesthetic, intellectual and spiritual traditions that overarch the divisions between East and West. Beginning in 1983, and continuing today, Gimblett’s practice deploys the gestural dynamics of both Abstract Expressionism and Zen calligraphy onto richly layered and endlessly diverse metallic quatrefoil surfaces. While continuing to create paintings in a broad range of formats Max Gimblett’s evocation of the quatrefoil as a signifier of spirituality calls to mind the symbol’s presence in myriad cultures ranging from Buddhist mandalas to Christian rose windows. According to Chris Saines, Director of the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, “A Gimblett quatrefoil makes a contemporary object of that historic space then shifts its meaning at the surface, searching for the particular in the face of the universal.”

Max Gimblett is a painter, calligrapher, and Rinzai Zen monk. Gimblett’s paintings are a harmonious postmodern synthesis of American and Japanese art. Often working on shaped panels or canvases – tondos, ovals, and his signature four-lobed quatrefoil – he marries Abstract Expressionism, Modernism and Spiritual Abstraction with mysticism and traditions of Asian calligraphy. Masterful brushwork, an eccentric and sophisticated color sense and sensuously lush surfaces are punctuated with gilding in precious metals – a nod to alchemy, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland (in which he was raised) and Japanese lacquerware, ceramics and temple art.

Born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1935, Max Gimblett studied at the San Francisco Art Institute in the 1960s and has since traveled, taught and exhibited extensively across the globe. Gimblett’s work is included in major museum collections worldwide, including the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and the Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki.

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Max Gimblett


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