But much like Egyptian sarcophagi, Presneill also introduces some personal effects into the mix which are meant to upend the self-reflexivity of postmodernism by extracting the authentic from the iconographic. At every turn in his work we see an endless (re)negotiation with the invariable lightness of cultural signs and their infinite mutability; a concerted effort to channel and reorganize the persistence of symbols and myths in a culture of unending recyclability; and a dedicated practice of reading history from the moment in which it takes shape.
As part of this (meta)deconstructive dialog, we can better understand Presneill's project as an effort to render that which is immanently familiar uncanny; as a means of making western art and art history a thing unknown to us; and as a concerted effort at denying every form of confidence about what is constitutive of 'presence' in the present. Indeed, his work might even be characterized as an art of utility - grabbing what is necessary in the moment in order to upend the fictions of the past - creating a kind of rotary motion that might be called counter-archivization or counter-aesthetization.
We could even go to the end, and say that this kind of neo-Egyptian operation comes very close to mirroring "the Egyptian myth, where there will always be an Isis to piece together the scattered limbs of Osiris." But much like the labor of reconstruction/deconstruction, Presneill's imagery also shows us that a metaphysical body can never be properly reassembled, i.e., that Osiris will forever be haunted by a primal lack, an unassailable impotency, and an improbable form of reincarnation. In other words, art after the Egyptian effect will partake of a wholly deconstructed nature, having been cut into a million little pieces, first by modernism, then by postmodernism. As such, the Egyptian effect becomes the sign of a profane act that everywhere attempts to return the metaphysics of presence to the common use of 'culture'.
Presneill's paintings not only force us to question our own presuppositions about culture and taste, but they do this by moving between kitsch and coquettishness, familiarity and dissonance, a tacit disrespect for formal constraints and an irreverant indulgence in divergent themes and rendering techniques. Yes, Presneill is still a provocateur in an age that has fewer and fewer such individuals, but he is also a very specific type of provocateur - one who relishes in the anonymity and the agency of the scribe.
Grant Vetter, Excerpt from the exhibition catalog, Max Presneill: Paint Like an Egyptian, 2012
An opening reception for Max Presneill will take place on Friday, June 29, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. The exhibition will remain on view until August 2, 2012.
"Utilizing sources from the Internet, photographs from my own life, art historical references, multiple other resources and intuitive decision making when painting, I reflect upon the relationship between fact and fiction as well as past and present. Within reconstructed histories and mythologized experiences, the forged connections that play between remembering and invention act as considerations of the nature of reality, power and identity. In the end the paintings are the remnants and evidence of the cognitive, problem-solving nature of painting and the human experience, or at least mine..."