In times of global unrest and confusion, such as our current moment, there is an impulse to turn to myth, spiritual traditions, and the realm of dreams—a place where both wisdom and escapism can be found.

This impetus toward finding the invisible underside of the world is the driving force of New York artist Max Razdow and his actively detailed, large scale, mixed-media drawings.

Looking from a distance they resemble light-blasted Turners or bombastic Blakes, rendered in india ink and bruised blue and purple water color washes. Up close, the lyrical drawings pull you into Razdow’s fairytale world, bringing to mind those magical surrealist story tellers like Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington.

Detail of "Lamentation of the Hydra."

Detail of “Lamentation of the Hydra.”

Razdow’s tales are uniquely 21st century, however, borrowing from both sword and sorcery, and from post-modern science fiction too.

Some of Razdow’s wizards, monsters, and futuristic cities stem from the artist’s mystical experiences. Much of his imagery parallels a ritualized experiment with dreaming, performed by Razdow in collaboration with Jesse Bransford—an artist whose work explores similar magical and hermetic cosmologies—over a year ago. This project, which resulted in a show at Idio Gallery called Veil of Dreams in 2015, charted an alternate world that both artists claim to have experienced in their separate dreams.

There is allegory in these drawings too. In one of Razdow’s large works (see above), divided like triptych on the page—with a writhing hydra at the center and two Edvard Munch-like swirling candles on either side—Razdow depicts an artist laboring on an abstract painting while nearby cloaked characters (perhaps the members of a secret order) look on. As Razdow explained it, these onlookers represent an elite class, while the hydra symbolizes an elemental force that they have captured. The artist in this picture, endeavoring to make a modernist painting, is desperately trying to imitate the movements of the hydra with his brush.

06.Not_Yet_Titled

Not yet titled work by Max Razdow.

For me, this seemed a clear parable about the divide between the artist, the art world (a kind of elite, hermetic order), and the omnipresent force that drives creativity—the sublime and ineffable something that compels artists to do what they do.

It seems the moment is ripe for such allegories, which attracts me to Razdow’s work.

Between surreal elections and horrors wrought across the globe, now might be a good time for artists to reassess the world of the mind, its symbols and its chaotic logic. This delving inward should not be done as escapism, as Razdow has rightly avoided, nor as merely play, but as a reassessment of everything we think we know. (Alessandro Keegan)

"Dome of the Athanor"

“Dome of the Athanor”

"The Wanderer from the South/The Root World"

“The Wanderer from the South/The Root World”

"The Wanderer from the West/The Crystal World"

“The Wanderer from the West/The Crystal World”

"Rangelmeir and the Hexant"

“Rangelmeir and the Hexant”