Interested in exploring the apocalyptic and dystopian qualities of our contemporary visual representations, Max Hooper Schneider’s practice merges sculpture, installation and living environments, applying the transgressive rules of science fiction to the precision of natural science. A former biology and architectural landscape major at Harvard University, Hooper Schneider (b. 1982 in Los Angeles, where he lives and works) infuses his works with an obsession for the transformation of living matter in the context of specific physical environments.
His installations express a dedication for dystopian post-human realities, yet always articulated through a thriving self-distance. His 2014 solo exhibition “The Pound” at Jennys’ in Los Angeles explored the hybrid attribute of quantum mechanics and organic matter: a treadmill cross-pollinated with a crocodile was presented alongside a vintage popcorn machine turned into an aquarium for snails, with a square watermelon installed inside a vitrine, sending desperate messages via a small LDS screen. Later in the exhibition, his diagrammatic drawings figured as architectonic thought forms, recalling the cosmological, sci-fi-inspired paintings of Paul Laffoley. Fascinated by representations of futuristic and fantastic underwater and animal life, Hooper Schneider’s contribution to a 2014 show at LA’s Paramount Ranch was a pink coffin in which he recreated an underwater ecosystem made of goldfishes, crayfish and turtles. The resulting installation, From Death Row to Purgatory, appeared as a faunal readymade. “Pet Semioses,” his series of glowing aquariums, meanwhile, read as a hallucinated echo to the work of Pierre Huyghe, for whom Hooper Schneider has worked as an assistant.
Material decay and the fossilization of matter figure prominently in Hooper Schneider’s practice, his workplace functioning as both studio and ecological laboratory. The Last Caucasian War (2014), for instance, features the fossil of a laptop ingrained in an aquarium of Ocypodid crabs, along with an acrylic tank darkened by a UV lamp reflecting on an Emporor scorpio. The installation The Accidental Menagerie, shown at Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles in 2015, was described a “set of conditions rather than a plot” and would greet the visitors with a wall of fossils from everyday objects, such as Soviet Belamorkanal cigarette packs or old cameras.
Hallucinated and apocalyptic living sculptures where biology meets science fiction
Hooper Schneider’s attention to the dark theater of objects appeared primordial in the exhibition “Nature Theater of Violent Succession,” presented in the fall of 2015 at Parisian gallery High Art. Gathering an ensemble of aquariums, dripping blue-watered sinks and an ecosystem-inspired slot machine, the works’ dislocated flesh suggested a post-apocalyptic revision of Paul Thek’s mid-‘60s meat sculptures. Then, in a subversive gesture towards the austerity of land art, Hooper Schneider coated an eight-square-meter area of rock with phosphorescent pigment for his project Mineral Complex, a contribution to the 2012 Mongolia 360° Land Art Biennial. The following year, in Living Epoxy: Disarticulation of Delphinapterus Leucas (2013), he displayed the bones of a giant beluga whale, cast from photo-luminescent epoxy resin and aglow in the windows of a building near the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica.
Between the surreal and the human, the scientific and the empiric, Max Hooper Schneider claims the poetic vitality of post-human elements, unfolding at the border of experimentation and biological mistake.
Max Hooper Schneider (American, b. 1982) is an artist who works and lives in Los Angeles. He is represented by High Art, Paris.
Recent solo exhibitions include “Nature Theatre of Violent Succession” at High Art, Paris, and “Accidental Menagerie” at Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles.
Martha Kirszenbaum is a curator and writer based in Los Angeles, where she currently serves as Director and Curator of Fahrenheit, an exhibition space and residency program.
Image: Nature Theatre of Violence Succession, detail, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and High Art, Paris.