The Island Now

Psychedelic hero’s work on exhibit

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Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2013 2:58 pm

A solo exhibition of works by Peter Max, one of the most beloved contemporary artists, will begin at the Nassau County Museum of Art later this month. This exhibition, the pop artist’s first museum exhibition in New York, juxtaposes portfolios of his mostly black-and-white drawings on paper against many of his larger and more colorful works in a variety of media. 

Max has been called “one of the most widely recognized artists of our time” by art historian Charles A. Riley II. 

The showing at Nassau County Museum of Art is the first in-depth look at this well-known artist’s original drawings. These never-before-seen drawings add to one of the most recognizable and commercially successful artists of our time.

Max’s fantastical works have their roots in his childhood. 

Born in Berlin, he was taken to Shanghai as an infant and lived for 10 years in a pagoda house, facing a Buddhist monastery and a Sikh temple. 

Buddhist monks painting enormous Chinese characters on vast sheets of rice paper, dramatic parades featuring floating dragons and the vibrant colorations and sights of Shanghai became his daily landscape. But little grabbed his imagination as much as the discovery of American comic books. Max fell in love with the characters Buck Rogers, Captain Marvel, and Wonder Woman, who carried him away to other worlds. 

His artistic interests and talents were nurtured by his mother, a fashion designer in Berlin before the family’s move to China. Her encouragement continued when the family relocated to Haifa, Israel, visited Paris for six months and finally, when Max was 16, arrived at their ultimate destination: the United States. 

In New York, Max trained at the Art Students League, Pratt Institute, and the School of Visual Arts. His art, influenced by the field of commercial illustration and characterized by intense bursts of color, became emblematic of the counter culture and psychedelic movements in graphic design during the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

In an earlier essay, Dr. Riley places Peter Max’s paintings “…within a continuum of modernists such as Van Gogh and Gauguin, Matisse and the Fauves, Kandinsky and Expressionism, Josef Albers and Frank Stella.”

Peter Max opens at Nassau County Museum of Art on Saturday, Oct. 25, and remains on view through Feb. 23, 2014. Nassau County Museum of Art is offering several programs in conjunction with this solo exhibition of works by Peter Max. 

Showing daily: compilation film featuring examples of the work of Peter Max throughout his career (Free with museum admission). Docent-led tours at 2 p.m. every day, Tuesday to Sunday during the run of the exhibition (Free with museum admission). Family Sundays: the museum features interactive gallery tours and hands-on art making for children of all ages and their families (Free with museum admission).

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