Maximilian Toth uses agression as his medium, painting sketchy scenes of adolescent cruelty on the dusty ground of schoolhouse chalkboard. His figures suggest action and inaction simultaneously: his large works are dominated by images of beatings, ritualistic hazing,and phenomenal violance, all without the presence of conciousness or emotional awareness.
Toth's process suggests speed and furious control, not unlike the characters in his works. In his most recent show at Fredericks & Freiser, titled "Little Beasts," Toth experiments with the simulatenous physicality of both his technique and subject matter. Encompassing five large canvasses and two drawings, "Little Beasts" examines the moment in adolesence when innoncence is totally lost. His scenes are succinct and objective depictions of suburban boys stumbling through the dusty black chalkboard darkness towards some kind of general violence. These boys are newly savage, their lines repeatedly redrawn, emphasizing the constant shifts in their relation to each other and their "newfound strength and agression."
In Breaking a Chair in Three Parts (2009), Toth shows a life-sized scene of a balcony at a raucous high school party. One boy has climbed over the balcony railing, holding the bars tight as he emphatically vomits, his can of Pabst Blue Ribbon still in his right hand. Behind him, three boys mercilessly beat another with baseball bats, some kicking him with their boots. The scene is completed by a teenage couple flirting on the balcony, so self-involved and hopped up on hormones that they notice neither the vomiting nor the beating behind them.
Another standout work is Kill the Carrier (2009), a nefarious, gut-punching gym class scene. A group of boys in matching gym clothes fights over a red rubber ball. The boy jumping towards it, suspended in the air, is about to be punched in the stomach, his t-shirt flying up with his leap. School games which had previously been played without disorder are now the scenes for a murderous vein of violence. The figures are set in space, floating on the dark ground, their dislocation making more the scene even more disjointed and disconcerting.
Toth's works sit uncomfortably close to the liminal edges of youth. In discussing his work with Graham T. Beck of Art in America, Toth speaks fondly of a favorite YouTube video in which a boy shoots light bulbs with a BB gun. He says, "I love that kid (and whoever is supervising him). I love the way he uses the gun. He's a decent shot, and still young enough not to think twice about walking up and slapping the glass with the barrel. Club, gun: no difference...He's just figuring out that he's got this potential. He's not taking out his aggression. He's not angry. He just likes the sound and sight of things breaking. Can you get a better image of a kid saying goodbye to childhood?"
With his thoughtful and insistent visions of aggressive and uncaged youth, Maximilian Toth accesses the most primitive recesses of masculine impulses. These scenes are the wild embodiments of the violent imagination. Painted on chalkboard, they could even be interpreted as lessons, the improvisational plans for dark ritual. Toth's subjects focus on the delicately deviant, the secretly subversive, and the violent acts often committed in plain sight by fifteen year-old boys.