WHITEFISH BAY – Artist Peter Max will present many of his “cosmic” works at Milwaukee’s Gallery 505 in June.
Max, 79, catapulted to fame in the 1960s with his bright, psychedelic paintings. By 1967, his “Love” poster was everywhere with more than one million copies sold.
In the decades that followed, his art has appeared on small canvases – a U.S. postage stamp – and enormous ones – a Norwegian cruise ship.
He has served as the official artist for high profile arts and sporting events – the Grammy Awards, the Super Bowl and more – and he has painted multiple presidents and countless celebrities.
“I loved spending time with musicians like Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Sia, Taylor Swift, Aaron Neville, Nancy Sinatra and Steven Tyler,” Max said. “I have great memories of meeting and painting sports heroes Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson, Terry Bradshaw, Derek Jeter and Dale Earnhardt, as well as CEOs Richard Branson and Ted Turner.”
Max’s beginnings were far from glamorous: He was born a German Jew in the midst of the Holocaust. With his parents, Jacob and Salla, a 1-year-old Max escaped to Shanghai where he spent the next decade.
On the balconies of their pagoda-style home, Max’s mother, a fashion designer, left art supplies lying around and told him it was OK to make a mess.
“Imagine if she had said, ‘Don’t make a mess.’ It would have stifled me instead of giving me the freedom to create,” Max said.
His nanny, a young Chinese woman, taught him to paint with a calligraphy brush, which continues to influence his painting style, he said.
In 1948, Max and his family moved to Haifa, Israel. There, he took classes from a Jewish Viennese painter, Professor Hünick, whom he cites as an early influence.
“I think that my Jewish heritage shaped me as an artist most by the love and caring I got from the Jewish community – in Shanghai, Israel and later in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, when we moved to New York,” Max said.
Max and family headed stateside in 1953. After graduating from high school, he attended the Art Student’s League and zeroed in on realism painting, but in subsequent years, his interests shifted to surrealism, and his career really took off.
“My ’60s art was defined by solid line work with harmonious color blends,” Max said. “In the ’70s, I began to paint in a free-flowing, improvisational style with acrylics, which continues to be my art style to this day.”
Max still paints three to four days each week, traveling to shows across the country most weekends.
His show in Whitefish Bay features paintings created from 1960 to 2017.
Don’t expect Max to slow down any time soon.
He continues to work on commission, recently painting Taylor Swift, the coaches on NBC’s “The Voice” and others.
“I love working on these projects, creating art and meeting with my friends, fans and collectors at gallery shows,” Max said.
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How to go:
What: Peter Max: The Collected Works 1960-2017
Where: Gallery 505, 517 E. Silver Spring Drive, Whitefish Bay
When: Max to appear on Saturday, June 10, 6-8 p.m. and Sunday, June 11, 2-4 p.m. Uncrating party on Friday, June 2, 6-8 p.m. RSVPs required for Max appearances. Art on display June 3-11.
Contact: 414-962-6302 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More info: Gallery-505.com