Max Lamb | Inventory
3 E 89th Street

Installation Views


Taking Stock: An Inventory of Experiments

282 works. 31 series. 33 materials. 17 years. 3,403 square feet.

By Zoë Ryan

Inventory, as the title suggests, is a survey of experiments with materials, techniques, and forms that designer Max Lamb has realized over the past seventeen years. Outstanding in breadth and scope, it is an extraordinary opportunity to explore the creative output of a designer known primarily for working one piece at a time. It’s a record of not only how prolific and hardworking Lamb is—and he is both—but of how many different types of materials and production methods he has charged himself with learning and refining over the span of his career to date. These works, a physical journal of sorts, are devised more often than not by a process of trial and error. They speak directly to the fervor with which Lamb approaches his work—mind, body, and spirit. Inventory does two things simultaneously: first, it gives Lamb an opportunity to check in on these works, which date back to 2007— some of which he hasn’t seen since they were first made and shown. Secondly, it provides both Lamb and us the opportunity to literally take stock of the development of his practice, its twists and turns and evolution, offering clues to where he might be headed. Another relatively unknown but noteworthy group of designs, titled within the series McLean’s Cypress Tree, were made while Lamb was a resident at the Northern Californian home and studio of sculptor JB Blunk, in 2009. The pieces’ namesake, Jason McLean, offered Lamb a cypress tree from his land to work with while in residence. Lamb created fourteen works from the tree—some during the year of his residency, others a year later when he returned.

The works were then packed away in storage and have been waiting ever since for Lamb to finish them. For Inventory, Lamb had the opportunity to sand and oil some pieces and finish carving others, including carving dovetail keys in a few that needed supports added to cracks that had opened up during their time in storage. He was ultimately able to complete this body of work, which is now shown for the first time.

No work is too rough or undeveloped to show. For Lamb, these experiments “shown as is,” and made with creative freedom, are personal. “There are many pieces here that I haven’t seen for a while,” he attests. They retain their currency solely through “documentation in photos, text messages, emails, and conversations.” It is hard to fathom that such a large body of work has gone officially undocumented until now. And yet Lamb admits that although he develops “something personal with each work, I move on. Distracted by the present and future, I put the past to the side.” That is, until now. By bringing these works back into the light, they have “become real again.” Whether Lamb picks up these experiments from where he left off, or whether this process of revisiting his own history creates a break with the past, only time will tell. For now, this process has been an exercise in catharsis, giving Lamb peace of mind: “I will be able to create new work without noise.” As Lamb’s back catalogue attests, the possibilities are endless.

For information regarding Max Lamb's upcoming exhibition Inventory at 3 East 89th Street, Opening Thursday, February 29, please contact Trang Tran


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