Max Heiges’ Buff

Large Rack Mild Steel and Diamond Plate base

Text by Molly Cranston

In Buff, Max Heiges presents a collection of 60+ hand-cut steel barbells and dumbbells, turning NY’s New Release Gallery into a kitschy home-gym. Heiges uses the language of gym pursuits – graft and gains – to speak to the physical and psychological weight of masculine conventions. Traditional tomes of masculinity may demand the ability to lift heavy objects, but heavier still is the burden of expectation of strength.

Heiges’ sculptures flex in ranges of polish and glee, like shimmery slot-machine symbols brought to life. They represent a roulette of symbols to be randomly assigned, boyhood, manhood and things in-between. Gold, silver, bronze biceps, a pancake palm tree, lighting rods, love hearts and dollar signs, a dinosaur, a kinky anvil and cherries. Some barbells remind him to eat his fruit and vegetables. 

“I’m never going to be big enough” laments the exhibition text. That sense of despair trembles through the lacquered gem-stone hues of the sculptures, but I can’t help but feel there is a hopefulness to the aspirational narratives that Heiges approaches. The imperfection of the asymmetric steel dumbbells feel defiant, revering in the simple gorgeousness of the medium cut in cheeky, childish shapes. The sculptures feel emphatic, teasing, not only pointedly ironic. The weights rest on hand-made stands that look like wiggly stairs and towering rainbows, stretching upwards, reaching for new definitions of what it means to be a man. Buff is open at New Release until March 27th.

Dumbbells Various sizes and weights

Apples and Bananas, Mild Steel 17” x 9 1/2” x 10” 2021

Barbell Rack, Mild Steel and Diamond Plate base

Kinky Rack
Stainless Steel, Mild Steel and Diamond Plate base
8 pieces