Jan 16, 2024 - Culture

Inside the mind behind Boston's clown heads with artist Max Streicher

Two massive, inflatable clown heads hang in an alley between two buildings in downtown Boston. It's an art installation called "Endgame" by artist Max Streicher

"Endgame," the art installation by artist Max Streicher, debuted downtown last week. Photo: Courtesy of Downtown Boston BID

To onlookers, the pair of clown heads hovering between two buildings is either a whimsical surprise or nightmare fuel.

  • To Max Streicher, they’re two lost, helpless souls trapped in an alley after blowing off course.

Why it matters: Streicher’s clowns, part of the upcoming “Winteractive” exhibit, got people talking about downtown Boston like it was 2019.

Axios Boston spoke with Streicher about his art. The answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Why inflatable art?

It began right after I finished my master's at York University in Toronto in the late 1980s. There was a lot of expectation to do meaningful stuff.

  • Coming out of that, I thought, art should be fun.
  • So I made an inflatable. It's called "Breathe," and it was a big hit at my first professional art show out of school. After that, people would request them.

How "Endgame" came together:

It was inspired by a photograph that I came across from Weegee, the New York street photographer, of a Macy's Day parade preparations.

  • He photographed a giant Santa Claus, and it's lying on its back and looking at the sky.
  • I decided to recreate that figure, but as I was doing it, I realized I was only really interested in the face or the expression.
  • The idea then in the 1990s was proposing to have it on rooftops or between city buildings. I did several versions before I got to the one we're looking at now in Boston.

What's different about Boston's clowns:

They became more detailed, and the face has changed quite a bit.

  • I thought of them as maybe some kind of advertising campaign that's gone wrong, that's blown off course, and it's stuck somewhere.
  • The look I was going for was just sort of alarmed and stunned and shocked by the condition they're in.
  • But I'm open to other people reading their own sort of narrative into what's going on.

On the clowns' surrealism:

Surrealism only comes in their placement, not as objects in themselves, but only in the sense that they are unexpected and kind of in this urgent situation.

  • So there's an existential aspect to the work in that way.
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