John Max (1936-2011)
John Max: The Cast Image
Schedule and price of admission on the historic site’s website
John Max, Montreal, Québec | bulgergallery.com
Exhibit presented under the curatorship of Michel Hardy-Vallée.
A unique event: an exhibition featuring photos by John Max (1936-2011) and others not seen for half a century. The result of careful research in the photographer’s archives, this selection of portraits from the late 1950s to the 1970s provides a fuller understanding of John Max’s career, beyond his famous Open Passport.
Plastically sophisticated, John Max’s photos express an inner world that can be simultaneously anxious, ecstatic, peaceful, serene, or exhausted. Sculptural shadows overflow from contours, like molten bronze spilling out of an exiguous cast. Many well-known people are depicted, while others have remained anonymous to this day, but each portrait remains elusive. These faces are declined in the vocative case, addressing us directly rather than submitting to our gaze.
The photos show the scope of the photographer’s encounters and his ubiquity on the arts scene in Montreal. He was as close to painters, sculptors, choreographers, filmmakers, writers, photographers and illustrators as he was to friends and family. They also attest to his lyrical and expressionist approach to the medium. In a context where photography meant reportage and propaganda to the general public, and the pursuit of pure beauty to amateurs and artists, John Max blended genres, bringing subjectivity to reportage, and occasionality to the esthetic experience.
This selection is offered as the consolation of a long-buried memory surfacing to illuminate solitude. It carries with it the struggle to achieve durable ties with history and the ever-present chasm of forgetfulness. Scattered scores of dissimilar compositions, these photographs are here orchestrated against the beat of indifference.
David James Perez-Vela (estate of John Max)
Stephen Bulger and Sasha Furlani (Stephen Bulger Gallery)
Danielle Blanchette, Jean-François Brière, Eve Katinoglou and Audrey Marcoux (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts)
Exhibition at Rencontres
John Max: The Cast Image
Born in Montreal in 1936 to a family of Ukrainian immigrants from the region of Lviv, John Porchawka discovered photography around 1955 and adopted the professional moniker John Max. Self-taught and prolific, he worked as a stringer before being noticed by the George Eastman House and the Still Photography Division of the National Film Board of Canada. A major figure in Canadian photography by the late 1960s, he collaborated on many exhibitions, motion pictures and print publications. His Open Passport was exhibited in 1972 and published as a photobook. The chaotic aftermath of a long trip to Japan slowed his career, but there was a renewal of interest in his work during the 1990s. John Max died in 2011. He is represented by the Stephen Bulger Gallery of Toronto.
Michel Hardy-Vallée, PhD, is a historian of photography and independent curator. His research interests include the photobook, pictorial sequences, visual narration, and the archive.