Surprisingly, artist Daniel Maltzman is a pro on camera.
Unlike most stereotypes of the shy, withdrawn artist who uses the canvas to communicate, Maltzman is a charismatic presence who adores the spotlight.
Currently showing his latest finished work at the Russell Collection Fine Arts Galleries, Maltzman took some time with us the day of his Austin exhibit’s big opening reception to discuss his iconic work, his artistic influences and (not) being a celebrity.
Once seated in the gallery, it’s difficult to confine his boundless brand of energy, the kind that often spills out of Los Angeles natives, those West Coast foreigners who start networking from birth.
Dressed in shorts, a black and white striped tee and a baseball cap, Maltzman exudes a breezy, confident surfer vibe that verifies his charmed 90210 upbringing.
“I kind of fell upon painting by accident,” recalls Maltzman. “I never knew it’s what I wanted to be. I studied psychology, tried real estate for a while, did some club promotion. And about 20 years ago, I really started getting serious about art.”
By accident or clever design, Maltzman has concocted an unbeatable recipe that appeals to the insatiable visual appetite of the mainstream American public. His creations speak directly to our country’s hollow desire for excess and glamour.
All throughout the gallery, sexy, fashionable women stare back at us from giant life-size canvases, pouty mouths open. Their model-thin black and white bodies are less about warm portraiture and more about blank stares and body parts. These figures float in a textured background of almost-color that draws your eye subtly around the canvas.
This effect is largely due to Maltzman’s influence from the great abstract artist Gerhard Richter who created a series of intentionally blurred paintings replicating black-and-white photographs.
“The man’s a god! He opened up a door for me,” says Maltzman. “And I realized about five years into my career, I want to pull Richter into everything.”
Pull is the operative word here, as both Richter and Maltzman demonstrate the popular Hans Hoffman technique of layering color blocks on the canvas in order to create a sense of movement on the canvas.
With the layered effect of each one of Maltzman’s thick canvases, he achieves the desired Richter-esque effect that emphasizes the photographic quality of each painting and captures the figure in an ephemeral, dream-like state.
“Then on top of the Richter, I’m gonna pull just a pop of Warhol. But not TOO Warhol-y, cuz you don’t want to copy any artist. But if you look at paintings that I’ve done, you’ll see a bit of Picasso, you’ll see Basquiat, you’ll see a painting of Dali, you’ll see Warhol, which are all influences of what my art is all about.”
The overall collage effect, use of iconic pop culture imagery, nullification of the subject and replication of an image are all classic symptoms of a pop art aesthetic.
Similar to his pop art predecessors, Maltzman’s brightly colored abstracts and photo-paintings do not demand anything from us. They reflect ourselves back to us. They allow us to fill in the blanks with our own stories. Perhaps it is this lack of an agenda that appeals to such a giant segment of the population.
“I think nowadays people want to feel good. The colors that I use, the subjects that I choose all have that positive appeal to them. I’m pretty careful about what I do. I don’t want to paint anything that’s going to offend anybody. Y’know, I’m not all about publicity.”
Even without that immediate intention, Maltzman is finding more than his fair share of publicity in the form of celebrity-funded charity events and television appearances. His artwork has been displayed at both the Academy and Emmy Awards as well as in the background of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Orange County, NBC’s Dirty Sexy Money and MTV’s Paris Hilton’s My New BFF.
When asked about the assigned monikers of artist and celebrity, Maltzman humbly denies his incorporation of the latter role. “Nah, Warhol was the guy that did that. I’ve grown up in that world, but I’m not a celebrity. I’m not a Hollywood guy.”
Of course, his brushes with on-screen fame would speak otherwise. Not only did Maltzman appear as a bachelor looking for love in the second season of Bravo’s The Millionaire Matchmaker, he also appeared on TLC’s The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Milan.
“I love to be on camera,” he jokingly admits. “I don’t look at myself as a celebrity at all, but it’s heading into that direction a little bit.”
That second TV appearance almost led to a reality show of his own, a proposed year-in-the-life documentary called Life on Canvas. Hours of filming took place but nothing has come of it yet, Maltzman admits wistfully.
With his effortless charisma and endless string of cool celebrity-packed engagements, it’s obvious that Maltzman would indeed make a fascinating reality television subject. A bit contradictory in his statements at times but ultimately loveable.
Next up, Maltzman is planning a launch of his new branding venture with a project five years in the making he calls 'World of Maltzy.' He brandishes the custom-made brown leather bracelet he's been wearing that simply but proudly says Maltzy in plain white paint. "I'm sitting with a thousand of these bands, but I'm holding on to them until the time is right," he says.
Look for Maltzman's work (or at least his moniker) on clothing, bags, billboards and sides of buildings. World of Maltzy is coming for all of us.
“My thing is my painting. It’s about doing shows like this [at the Russell Collection]. I’m not just that pop artist that’s doing it for the dollar. I’m doing it for the love of what I do.”
Charmed life, indeed.
Maltzman explains his process in his piece "Forever Young," on display at The Russell Collection.
The Russell Collection of Fine Art Gallery's Daniel Maltzman exhibit continues until July 30.