From left: Don, Jesse, Drew and Paul
“Like Me Now” Courtesy of the artists and PKM Gallery
“32 x 32 x Z” Courtesy of the artists and PKM Gallery
The newly formed artist group currently resides at New INC, a selective creative space for those in art, technology and design. The group includes Don, who has worked in the fashion industry for over seven years; Paul, who specializes in fabrication; Jesse, who studied new media at UCLA; and Drew, who is in charge of software. Maxrelax initially wanted to publish a lifestyle magazine on “stuff they like,” but the group has moved a step further by collaborating with PKM artists and recognized fashion designer, Kye, to explore internet culture as a tool for building and marketing their exhibition.
What is it like working at a studio in the middle of nowhere in Ilsan?
Don We call it “shedlife.” Every day, it’s ramen, Spam, microwaveable rice and soju.
Paul But we have so much work to do, so it’s almost kind of a good thing. On weekends, we periodically go to Seoul, take a break and have a warm shower.
So, PKM is also a residency, like NEW INC.
Jesse Yeah. We started out last year doing design work for PKM. We did their entire branding strategy, their logo and helped them design their booth at Hong Kong Art Basel. The curator was into creating a generation-defining show to talk about new art being
created in Korea.
What’s the vibe at New INC like?
Drew In a lot of ways, it’s a glorified co-working space at its barebones, but the New Museum doesn’t own anything, and the strongest advantage of the program is the general community network. It’s really rare to know someone who knows about that and get a firsthand account of: “Oh, this is how you turn it into a sustainable studio and business.” ‘Cause nobody teaches you that kind of thing.
On your Instagram (@maxrelaxco), I saw a picture of Jesse soldering. Do you run into any difficulties using such a difficult technique?
Paul The very simple idea of a low-resolution screen with the image offset, and how you create that, was very tricky to figure out. Back in the States, I have a full woodshop with a laser cutter, so it’s much easier to make things on the fly. Here, we bring in a handful of hand tools, get things made once, and hope it works out.
Maxrelax stands for “Maximum Relaxation,” but the video project you worked on with Kye features a lot of attractive models. Couldn’t one argue that your work’s more about the “cool factor” than it is about relaxation?
Don Essentially, all of it is glossy and fun to look at. You need to make cool shit before people start to pay attention to you. The “cool factor” is the entrance.
Drew We don’t want to make things that are obviously about relaxing. We don’t want people to look at something and think it’s about yoga or meditation.
Maxrelax doesn’t seem to draw boundaries between art and the commercial.
Jeese If you look at artists working with technology or new media, you can see that we are very comfortable with commercial work. The idea of collaborating with other musicians and artists is very exciting to us.
Don If you could include this, we would love to work with Drake, Kanye and Jamie XX.
On top of your current exhibition, you guys are also featured in a web documentary by VICE. Are you guys that serious?
Don We’ve been shooting every day, and it’s a constant build up of what’s going on, revealing the process. It’s us hanging out, and there are also interviews.
Drew There’s a video of me cooking spam in the studio. It’s more a collection of Snapchats.