- For the Marxist concept, see maximum programme.
- For the theological/archeological concept, see Biblical maximalism.
- For the political ideology, see Revisionist Maximalism.
Maximalism is a term used in the arts, including literature, visual art, music, and multimedia. It is used to explain a movement or trend by encompassing all factors under a multi-purpose umbrella term like expressionism. It describes a quality of excessive redundancy oft exhibited by way of the overt accumulation of appurtenances that reflect current society. In other references the term refers to either the ostentatious displays of the extensive possessions of the super-rich or the obsessive collecting as frequently found in the behavior of garage sale shoppers who accumulate common household goods past reason.
The term maximalism is sometimes associated with post-modern novels, such as by David Foster Wallace and Thomas Pynchon, where digression, reference, and elaboration of detail occupy a great fraction of the text. It can refer to anything which is excessive, overtly complex and "showy", or providing redundant overkill in features and attachments, grossness in quantity and quality and maximalism the tendency to add and accumulate to excess.
The movement of maximalism in reference to the arts was founded by the artist and filmmaker Daryush Shokof in 1990 in Cologne, Germany. Maximalism vis-a-vis the arts is a new way of creating art. Many common elements are shared in the art works by artists who participate in the maximalist movement. The movement was initiated by Daryush Shokof as he wrote in his one-man show catalog of paintings at Galleria Verlato in Milano, Italy in 1990; "Unbalancing the chaos = Balance = Life = Maximalism". Shokof wrote a lengthy manifesto with the title Maximalism. It was published in different catalogues of his one-man shows, as well as the maximalists' group shows in Europe and in the US from 1990 to 1993.
The text to Maximalism opens as below with additional writings about his philosophical thoughts derived from his manifest that lead to his yekishim ideologies later in 1995;
Maximalism believes in life as the most important phenomenon that occupies mankind's thoughts. Life for a Maximalist means actions committed by every moving creature. Further on a Maximalist observes the beauty or the evil of all moving creatures but does not submit or yield negatively to a state of chaos as thinking of all possible movements to be out of man's control. In other words even though knowing it is not the man's decision or desire that makes the world go around, however, it is the lust of life to positively, constructively and playfully continue on being.
Shokof developed these thoughts in his more than 500 paintings exhibited worldwide and further elaborated yekishim, a word created from a mix of two Persian words, "yeki=one" and "shim=to become" so to mean "to become one" by Shokof, his final manifest. Yekishim is his own ideology regarding why man is on planet earth, which he believes is only for one reason alone; to reach "Yekishim", meaning 'for human beings to become One and united on earth'.
Novelist John Barth defines literary maximalism through the medieval Roman Catholic Church's opposition between, "two...roads to grace:"
- the via negativa of the monkʹs cell and the hermitʹs cave, and the via affirmativa of immersion in human affairs, of being in the world whether or not one is of it. Critics have aptly borrowed those terms to characterize the difference between Mr. Beckett, for example, and his erstwhile master James Joyce, himself a maximalist except in his early works.
- Under this label come such writers as, among others, Thomas Pynchon and Barth himself, whose bulky books are in marked contrast with Barthelmeʹs relatively thin novels and collections of short stories. These maximalists are called by such an epithet because they, situated in the age of epistemological uncertainty and therefore knowing that they can never know what is authentic and inauthentic, attempt to include in their fiction everything belonging to that age, to take these authentic and inauthentic things as they are with all their uncertainty and inauthenticity included; their work intends to contain the maximum of the age, in other words, to be the age itself, and because of this their novels are often encyclopedic. As Tom LeClair argues in The Art of Excess, the authors of these ʺmasterworksʺ even ʺgather, represent, and reform the timeʹs excesses into fictions that exceed the timeʹs literary conventions and thereby master the time, the methods of fiction, and the readerʺ.
Contemporary maximalist music is defined by composer David A. Jaffe as that which, "embraces heterogeneity and allows for complex systems of juxtapositions and collisions, in which all outside influences are viewed as potential raw material." Examples include the music of Edgard Varèse, Charles Ives, and Frank Zappa. In a different sense, Milton Babbitt has been described as a 'professed maximalist': his goal being, "to make music as much as it can be rather than as little as one can get away with."
Maximalism as a genre in the plastic arts is said to emphasise work-intensive practices and concentrate on the process of creation itself. Works from this genre are generally bright, sensual, and visually rich.
Charlotte Rivers describes how, "maximalism celebrates richness and excess in graphic design," characterized by decoration, sensuality, luxury and fantasy, with examples including the work of illustrator Kam Tang and artist Julie Verhoeven.
Iranian-born German-based artist Daryush Shokof claims to have popularized the term and concept in the visual art world. As described in his "Maximalist Manifesto" (1991) maximalist art works are:
- Politically aware, with socially critical points of view.
- Mostly include ironic and humorous perspectives in concept or in form.
- Not made to simply oppose minimalist works of art.
- Open to wide views and visionary dimensions that can be fantastic, but not deformed.
Assistant art history professor Gao Minglu connects maximalism in Chinese visual art to the literary definition by describing the emphasis on, "the spiritual experience of the artist in the process of creation as a self-contemplation outside and beyond the artwork itself...These artists pay more attention to the process of creation and the uncertainty of meaning and instability in a work. Meaning is not reflected directly in a work because they believe that what is in the artist's mind at the moment of creation may not necessarily appear in his work." Examples include in the work of artists Cao Kai, Ding Yi, and Gu Dexin.
See also 
- Barth, John. “A Few Words About Minimalism”, New York Times Book Review, p.1. Dec. 28, 1986.
- Ishiwari, Takayoshi. ʺThe Body That Speaks: Donald Barthelmeʹs The Dead Father as Installationʺ, Unpublished Masterʹs thesis, p.1. Osaka University, 1996. link
- Jaffe, David. “Orchestrating the Chimera—Musical Hybrids, Technology, and the Development of a 'Maximalist' Musical Style”, Leonardo Music Journal. Vol. 5, 1995.
- Delville, Michel and Norris, Andrew. "Disciplined Excess: The Minimalist / Maximalist Interface in Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart", Interval(le)s, p.4. Vol. I, 1 (Automne 2004).
- Babbitt (1987), p.183.[full citation needed] Cited in Kurth, Richard (1994). Untitled review of An Introduction to the Music of Milton Babbitt by Andrew Mead (1994), Intégral Vol. 8, pp. 147-182 (Subscription access). Similar statement in Dubiel, Joseph (1991), p.94 & 119n13.[full citation needed]
- Rivers, Charlotte (2008). Maximalism: The Graphic Design of Decadence& Excess, p.011. ISBN 2-88893-019-6.
- http://www.ifvc.com/shokof_bio.htm and http://www.beyondpersia.org/index.php/artists/details/daryush_shokof/
- Kristin E.M. Riemer (October 9, 2003). "Chinese Maximalism debuts", UB Reporter.
Further reading 
- Delville, Michel and Norris, Andrew (2005). Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and the Secret History of Maximalism. ISBN 1-84471-059-9.