The paintings of Max Mason are impressive on a variety of levels. He is a masterful draughtsman who can lay down paint in the manner of the old masters. Staying with the magical theme of baseball he presents a virtual clinic on composition and color usage. In a museum filled with exquisite paintings, the works of Max Mason more than hold their own. The Butler is delighted to present this outstanding exhibition of the work of Max Mason.
In a recently discovered letter my father relates how much baseball has meant to him, his father and grandfather through the years. That’s four generations of Mason’s, back to the 19th century, that loved, and continue to love the game. When I started painting baseball subjects in the early 1980’s I had no idea I would still be doing so nearly 40 years later. While I am the first in the family to make art related the game, they were with me every step of the way. A legacy of love is a strong motivator.
As a child I was drawn to the action. I can vividly recall the intense fantasies I would conjure up of pitching, batting and fielding in beautifully sun lit stadiums full of roaring fans. I was the relief pitcher walking in from the dark shade of the bull pen to squelch a late inning rally. I was the pinch hitter emerging from the cool safety of the dugout into the light and heat of a summer afternoon to make solid contact with an outside fastball, sending it over the first baseman down the right field line clearing the bases. And I celebrated the intensity of my feelings by covering the walls of my room with cutout photos from sports magazines. It was a real gallery of baseball art.
When people responded enthusiastically to my first painting relating to baseball in art school I was surprised. My main professor and mentor, Neil Welliver, said “I like the psychology of that!” pointing to an oil sketch of a Red Sox outfielder in deep center field. It was done from memory and was very different than the work I was doing at the time. Something must have registered deep inside because a few years later I did a series of pastel drawings of imaginary scenarios akin to those fantasies I had as a ten year old. A whole show of large oils based on the pastels followed, some of which are in this show. Lou Zona happened to see the show and that’s how my relationship with the Butler began.
The early baseball paintings were about the figures, light, space and imagined action of a ballgame. The recent ones are mostly about the stadiums, the fans and landscape of the cities they are in. All are a throwback to a certain twelve year old boy’s imagination. He is at his grandparents house in suburban St Louis surrounded by the love of family, his baseball cards, and his fantasies of baseball. The fantasies are as real as his actual experience and the hope of that time. All things were possible and a scrawny twelve year old boy could pop out of the cool of the Cardinals dugout with a bat in his hands and win the game while the crowd cheered.
I owe a deep gratitude to Lou Zona for his encouragement and support. This exhibit is dedicated to him.
Max Mason(III), 2/21/2021
Max Mason is represented by Gross McCleaf Gallery, Philadelphia, PA.
June 6 - August 29, 2021
Giffuni Gallery, 2nd Floor