Artist aficionados, sports enthusiasts and music lovers will be familiar with the artist behind Pop to Patriotism, a Peter Max exhibit at Masterworks Gallery in Naples (370 12th Ave.; 261-0370), Saturday, Jan. 20 and Sunday, Jan. 21. A versatile pop culture artist icon with works appearing in more than 100 worldwide museums and galleries, Max is world renowned for his art, which spans subjects from the Dalai Lama to political leader portraits; advocacy artwork for the environment, human and animal rights; and involvement in current events, including the Sept. 11th catastrophe.
The vibrant colors and style of Max's pop-culture images are instantly recognizable in the same way Andy Warhol is known for his abstract portraits and use of geometric shapes. a multidimensional creative artist. Max has worked with oils, acrylics, water colors, finger paints, dyes, pastels, charcoal, pen, multicolored pencils, etchings, engravings, animation cells, lithographs, serigraphs, silk screens, ceramics, sculpture, collage, video and computer graphics for his creative expression.
Born in Europe, Max lived his first 10 years in Shanghai, China, and wished to come to America. His family took a voyage to India, Africa and Israel, where Peter studied art with a Viennese fauve painter. It was there that Max developed a love and fascination for astronomy.
During a six-month visit to Paris, Max enrolled in art school, where he studied the culture and art history of Paris. He finally fulfilled his dream and came to America with his family in 1953 when he was 16.
Max completed high school and continued studying art at The Art Student's League, a "renowned, traditional academy" across from Carnegie Hall in Manhattan. This education developed Max into a realist painter.
After art school, Max was enthralled by commercial illustration, like comic books, and graphic design from America, Europe and Japan. He began utilizing this genre and won awards for album covers and book jackets.
Max also was inspired by contemporary photographers such as Bert Stern, Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, which led to his photo-collage period, concentrating on the psychedelic era of the mid-'60s. This collage experience segued into his famous "Cosmic '60s" style — distinctive line work and bold color combinations. The result of this new approach by Max was media attention; he was seen on several magazine covers, including Life, and appeared on national TV — The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, among them.
In the 1970s, Max was persuaded occasionally to do commercial work again through special commissions by the Federal government agencies: the first environmental 10-cent U.S. postage stamp in 1974; 235 U.S. Border murals installed in 1978; and his first 8-by-4-foot Statue of Liberty.
For July 4, 1976, Max created a special installation and art book, Peter Max Paints America, to commemorate America's bicentennial. This was the catalyst for Max, who began his annual July 4th tradition of painting the Statue of Liberty.
In 1982, Max painted six Liberties in the Rose Garden on the White House lawn at the request of President and Mrs. Reagan, and then personally helped to actualize the statue's restoration, which was completed in 1986. One of his Liberty head paintings became the cover of U.S. News and World Report in the same year.
Soon after, Max received thousands of requests for posters, but he was drawn to those that focused on his passions: the environment, and human and animal rights. He began a series of works called the Better World series and created a painting called I Love the World, depicting an angel embracing the planet, inspired by his backstage experience at the Live Aid concert.
In 1989, for the 20th anniversary of Woodstock, Max was commissioned to create a 600-foot stage — the world's largest rock-and-roll stage — for the Moscow Music Peace Festival.
His love of music led Max to be the designated official artist for the Grammys and the 25th Anniversary of the New Orleans Jazz Festival.
Max's commissions by political figures included 40 Gorbys, for Mikhail Gorbachev. He also has painted several Heads of State, which includes six U.S. presidents — Carter, Ford, Bush and Reagan among them.
A huge honor was bestowed on Max in 1990, when he was selected to receive a 7,000-pound section of the Berlin Wall. Max carved a dove from within the stone, using a hammer and chisel, and placed it on top of the wall to symbolize setting it free. The sculpture was then installed in the aircraft carrier museum on the U.S.S. Intrepid in the Hudson River, N.Y.
Other commissioned political-motif artwork by Max for worldwide events include Summit of the Americas, Gorbachev's State of the World Forum and the United Nations Earth Summit, for which he had designed a series of 12 stamps that became the best-selling stamps in U.N. history. For the U.N.'s 50th anniversary, in front of world leaders from 166 nations, Max presented 50 paintings, in different color combinations, of the United Nations Building.
Representing the sports world, Max has been the "Official Artist" for five Super Bowls, the World Cup U.S.A., the World Series, the U.S. Tennis Open and the NHL All-Star Game.
The CEO and chairman of Continental Airlines was obviously impressed by this famous pop-culture artist. In 2002, he had Max paint the exterior of one of his $150 million Boeing 777 wide-body jets that can be seen soaring through the clouds today.
Max, who was deeply affected by Sept. 11th, designed posters to benefit the September 11th Fund and The Survivors Fund. He was asked to create the American Heroes project, which consisted of portraits of the 356 fire fighters lost on 9-11 and later that year. (Posters are available for at www.petermax.com, and proceeds benefit these funds.)
"What began as my artistic response to the tragedy and the need to create one portrait for each fire fighter's family, became something we can now all share," Max says. "When I am painting these men, looking into their eyes each night, I feel like I know them and a tremendous sadness arises when I realize that we will never see them again."
Peter Max art lovers will have the rare opportunity of meeting him at his exhibit of more than 100 pieces of artwork from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, and from 12 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 21. Don't miss this chance to speak with one of America's most creative, long-standing contemporary artists. It's guaranteed to be entertaining — and enlightening.