Maxwell McMaster used to be outside, literally and figuratively. His paintings were focused in an idealized California of sunsets and ripeness, as if his color spectrum sprung from the idealized West Coast that resides in our daydreams, those reveries we envision as, sadly,  much of the state is blanketed in an ochre gray of smoke and fire. Returning to these idyllic scenes as a reminder of what was, there is an interesting pivot I noticed in McMaster's newest 19-piece body of work, Windows, on view by appointment at First Amendment Gallery in San Francisco starting September 19, 2020. Now looking outside from within, his work longs for the romance of those golden, glorious dawns and sunsets.

This is the first show I can think of where McMaster dreams of California rather than creates one, and the switch is profound. Made during a pandemic where being out of doors invoked new meaning, the west coast fires have made the concept of Windows even more substantial and powerful. We are all here looking outside, wondering if dreams can become a reality, what sacrifices need to be made and what the future portends. "Serenity now" McMaster seems to say in this conversation with L. Herrada-Rios as they discuss the making of Windows, the music in his life and the curatorial practice for an upcoming show this Fall. —Evan Pricco

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L. Herrada-Rios: For your new solo exhibition, Windows, you bring sentimental elements into your already contemplative and serene style. What themes are you excited to  explore for this show? Anything new or unfamiliar?
Maxwell McMaster: I'm thinking of the pieces as glances into my world, taking elements of my past, mostly, and painting them in a sentimental way. The exciting thing is the sharing of a more personal narrative. It's always in my work, although not as directly. I'm also excited to work on some larger scale installation stuff for this show.

How has the current COVID-19 shelter-in-place ordinance affected your workflow if at all? Has it changed your relation to your work?
The Covid situation has had an enormous effect on my work. It's allowed me to reset and reflect on the past few years and given me time to think about how I'd like to work moving forward and setting intentions for the future. It's also helped me focus and be more present, especially with everything that's been happening on top of the already tough situation. It requires more strength and discipline to maintain focus. It's helped me, and I'm sure others out there, to grow in ways we might not have otherwise. It's been humbling, to say the least.

Coming from a music-oriented household, have you ever played music yourself? What have you been listening to while working on pieces for Windows?
I do! My dad is a musician and would sing and play guitar regularly. He would play records for hours and was always buying up to date albums. In the 90's, I was super into hip-hop. I was in a band called Who Cares. We had some amazing opportunities and opened for some of our heroes: Slick Rick, Hieroglyphics, The Pharcyde, Acyalone to name a few. I still play music and still love it. In the studio, I listen to mostly older soul, funk, jazz, and reggae.

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You've worked with installations and sculptures in the past and you mentioned that you are looking to do more of that as your career progresses. Is there any other art discipline that you would like to explore within your practice?
I really enjoy installation work. It feels more real. It's just about creating an experience and expressing oneself. It's somehow liberating.

Windows will be a precursor to your curated show at First Amendment, Connections,  opening October 24th and showcasing works from peers, friends, and other connections you've collected throughout your career. In preparing for the show, I'm sure a lot of old memories between yourself and the participating artists have stirred up. Are there any valuable insights you would give to your younger self if you had the opportunity, and are there any major highlights from your time building an art community?
I think the most important piece of advice I would give is to be patient and not be so hard on yourself. I continue to give myself this advice, haha. The difference is now I know from personal experience. Also don't get hung up on what others are doing. It's never about them in the end; it's about you and what you want to express/do with your art. As for my community, it's always about love, and at the end of the day, some people just have love for you and are down for you and what you do. That's the most valuable thing, much more important than any of the accomplishments you could ever achieve. It's an honor to be in a position to give some of my community friends and extended family an opportunity like this. Everyone in the show has given me a boost in some way along my journey, and for that I'm forever grateful.

Windows will be on view from September 19—October 16, 2020