Max Gimblett: juggernaut opens Tuesday, September 8
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Issue no. 17

Max Gimblett

Max Gimblett, Oedipus, 2012, gesso, acrylic and vinyl polymers, epoxy, Aquasize and palladium leaf on canvas, 96 x 80 x 2 inches
8 September - 10 October, 2020

Hosfelt Gallery presents a solo exhibition of work by the esteemed 84 year-old painter, calligrapher, and Rinzai Zen monk Max Gimblett. The exhibition, entitled juggernaut, opens September 8, 2020 and is the artist’s first exhibition at the gallery.
Max Gimblett, Secret, 2020, gesso, acrylic, resin, size and platinum leaf on canvas, 15 x 15 x 2 inches
Gimblett’s paintings are a harmonious, postmodern synthesis of American and Japanese art. Often working on shaped panels or canvases — tondos, ovals, and his signature four-lobed quatrefoil — he marries Abstract Expressionism, Modernism and Spiritual Abstraction with mysticism and traditions of Asian calligraphy. Gimblett’s paintings are defined by masterful brushwork combined with an eccentric and sophisticated color sense, and finished with sensuously glossy surfaces. They frequently incorporate gilding in precious metals — a nod to alchemy, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland (in which he was raised) and Japanese lacquerware, ceramics, and temple art.
Max Gimblett, Enso-afterJuin, 2008, acrylic and vinyl polymers on canvas, 80 x 80 inches
In addition to paintings on canvas and panel, Gimblett’s oeuvre encompasses a half-century practice of creating unique artist’s books as well as calligraphy-inspired ink paintings on paper. He is both a storyteller and a teacher who frequently guides workshops in traditional Sumi ink drawing and calligraphy techniques.
To view the exhibition in person and privately, please make an appointment here: or you may call the gallery at 415-495-5454.
Max Gimblett in his studio
Born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1935, Gimblett trained at the San Francisco Art Institute in the 1960s and has since lived, studied, traveled, taught, and exhibited extensively across the globe. His work is included in major museum collections, including the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and the Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki. Gimblett lives and works in New York and Auckland with the scholar, curator, writer and 2020 recipient of the prestigious Dan David Prize — Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett — to whom he has been married for 56 years.

In the Studio

In 1962 I was in Toronto and was taken to a Ukrainian potter’s workshop; Roman Bartkiw, the potter, looked at me and said he needed an apprentice. I asked him what the deal was. He said I would work for him five or six days a week, eight hours a day. I would not get paid anything and after my first year he would let me make some pots of my own. I instantly said "I’m your man!" Two years later Barbara came home from the University of Toronto one day and found me staring at a red Conté crayon drawing of myself I had done looking in a mirror. Barbara said, "You are a painter," and I said "Yes, I am." — Max Gimblett
Ensō is perhaps the leading motif in Japanese calligraphy. It certainly has become mine. It took maybe fifteen years of drawing before my ensōs became round previously they were ovals or sort of one-sided squeezed circles as I misjudged my centre and ran towards the left or right side of the paper. Also I had not resolved my in and out: practice makes perfect.
— Max Gimblett
My drawing impulse shifted from School of Paris, headed up by Matisse and Picasso, to Japanese calligraphy in my Bloomington, Indiana studio in 1968/69. I was introduced to Zen calligraphy in San Francisco.

I study with the Japanese masters of all ages. They come to my studio and instruct me when I evoke their name.
— Max Gimblett
Every few weeks, his painting wall is repainted white. He cleanses the studio of fear by walking around and around its edges, shaking a bell from the Ganges River. He also has an altar of spiritual objects displayed on top of filing cabinets, which includes a Buddha in black quartz stone (circa second century), a Cambodian clay sculpture of a head, a nineteenth-century Sichuan God of Abundance, a Japanese traveling shrine and a Maori taonga, including a pounamu hei-tiki (jade sculpture). These objects (most of them faces) watch over Gimblett as he works.
— Jenni Quilter, from "That which crosses my willful path," in Max Gimblett: workspace, 2010
Max Gimblett, Olympus, 2019, acrylic, Aquasize, and 23.75kt Rosenoble gold leaf on canvas, 30 x 21 inches
His workplace is, in Gimblett's words, "like skin, like my body. I inhabit it completely, I don't feel separate from it."
Gimblett moves to the wall, container of paint in one hand and large sumi brush in the other, and picks a canvas. His assistant stands a few feet away, ready. In these moments, the studio pauses. Everything seems to hold its breath. Gimblett dips the brush into the teal paint, plants his feet, squares his shoulders at the canvas, confronts the emptiness of the space in front of him — then with a roar or grunt, acts into the visual field, accepting the chance of the moment, the infinitely complex relationship between his brain, his physical movement, the paint's arc and the canvas's receptivity to the paint. A painted gesture is suddenly ripping its way across the picture field and everything is transformed. — Jenni Quilter
Watch Max Gimblett in process

At Home with Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett & Max Gimblett

“The first time I met Max, the very, very first time, I told him that I had no intention of getting married,” teases Barbara. “I was 19 years old — seven years younger than Max — and I thought that marriage was a bourgeois institution. He said something about us always supporting each other. Along the lines of how we would always be there for each other. He’s very convincing. A year later we were married.”

The pair put their love’s longevity not just down to the usual — “commitment, loyalty, trust and respect” — but mutual admiration, support and genuinely getting a kick out of each other’s success. Max says that each believes the other to be the leader of their union.

Verve Magazine

In the Shop

Max Gimblett, Kaleidoscope, 2012-18, pencil, ink, aquasize, Swiss, lemon and platinum white golds on paper, 22 x 30 inches
I approach each work of art as equal. The paintings and the drawings, the mandalas on paper, rich colorful ink and gilded, the black and white sumi inks, prints, screen prints, monoprints and lithography, ceramics, Spirit boxes, are all significant in their own right. They are not dependent on one another, they stand alone. Each articulates something particular to its medium. Each lives in their own tradition. — Max Gimblett
View in Shop

New to Inventory

Bruce Conner, DISSERTATION, OCTOBER 5, 1994, 1994, ink and pencil on paper;
image 10 3/4 x 11 5/8 inches / sheet 11 x 12 1/8 inches
For more information on available work, email

Art @ Home

From Left to Right: Alicia McCarthy; Max Gimblett; Julie W. Chang; Emil Lukas
Max Gimblett
Jim Campbell, Edition 26 (Temple in Yunnan), 2018
Max Gimblett
Left: Max Gimblett; Right: Collaboration of Max Gimblett and Lewis Hyde

In the News

Max Gimblett, Ocean Time, 2012-19, pencil, ink, aquasize and Swiss gold leaf on paper, 22 x 30 inches
Max Gimblett
Ocean Wheel
Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetū
On view through 15 November

In a time of change and upheaval, Max Gimblett’s works remind us of the expressive power of color and form. — Felicity Milburn, Christchurch Art Gallery Lead Curator

Accompanied by drawings, paintings, artist’s books and prints spanning Gimblett’s career from the 1960s to 2010, including examples from his iconic quatrefoil and enso series, Ocean Wheel acknowledges a major gift of more than 200 works to Ōtautahi Christchurch in 2011.
Max Gimblett, Script, 2012, Sumi ink on Thai garden 100% kozo handmade paper, 31 x 22 inches

We Recommend

Isabella Kirkland, New Opportunist (Spotted Lantern Fly: Lycorma delicatula), 2018,
oil and alkyd on panel, 16 x 20 inches
Isabella Kirkland: Material Longevity
Hosted by Berkeley Arts + Design &
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Thursday, September 3 at 12 pm PST

Sausalito-based Isabella Kirkland will be in conversation with Berkeley Arts + Design on Thursday, September 3 at 12 pm PST to discuss the deep histories and meanings of her renderings of a natural world in transformation.

Register for the conversation here.
Hosfelt Gallery is located at 260 Utah St, between 15th & 16th streets. Wheelchair accessible entrance at 255A Potrero Avenue. For more information call 415.495.5454 or visit

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