As timeless as the music of the Beatles yet mindful of the times in which we live, global artist Peter Max returns once again to St. Louis to kick off his 2005 Colors of a Better World exhibition. This being his 70th gallery show in the past 26 months, all are invited to join him on January 14 and 15 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Wentworth Gallery in Des Peres.
“I work a lot,” says Max. “I find work itself is a conduit for more work.”
Aside from creating the sixties style, Peter Max has been crowned as the official artist for, among many other international events, the Grammy award ceremonies, the 25th anniversary of the New Orleans Jazz Festival and, appropriately, the Woodstock Music Festival. He has over 70 magazine covers to his credit, including Time, Life, and Newsweek, as well as recognizable album covers for bands such as Yes, Aretha Franklin, Alice Coltrane, and The Band. His reach has extended far beyond music since his emergence as leading artist in the late ’60s. He has been a voice of love to the world through his art, especially at home in the U.S., where his efforts tirelessly continue to embrace and support freedom and peace. Though he was born in Berlin and raised in the Far East, Max is undoubtedly a role model as an American patriot.
Could you talk about the impact music has had on your artwork?
Music has been always the backbeat of everything I do. [At] the time my artwork came on the scene, the Beatles had just come out, so it has always been a very important thing. I’ve gone through many, many phases of music—you know, the pop culture music—and I fell in love with jazz. Back then, I used to go to a little club in Manhattan called the Five Spot where Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker and everybody played.
Is the Five Spot still there?
No, I don’t think it’s there anymore. It has probably not been there for many years. I was like 17, 18. That was the cool place for someone to go. Then, of course, came all the Beatles, Moody Blues, the Stones, and Deep Purple and all these rockin’ bands that just occurred and they were always there playing in the background when I was painting. Now I’ve fallen in love again with fusion jazz, like Chick Corea and Gary Burton, Jeff Lorber and all those guys. In fact I just was with Chick Corea the other day. So, you know, I still love all the jazz and I like alternative music. I like it all. I’m in love with every sort of music. I paint at night around five o’clock; I spend five to six hours a night painting. Sometimes I stop as early as one or two in the morning. We’ve got a nice setup over here with big speakers. And my assistant is an ex-jazz musician, so he brings in the greatest music.
At the Live Aid concert in 1985, you drew the “I Love the World” image.
I was standing backstage with the musicians; I was the only artist. It was very heartfelt because they were doing a concert to help the people of Ethiopia. There we were in Philadelphia, thousands of kids rocking, 60,000 people in the audience; Bob Geldorf organized the event with all the money going to Ethiopia. That was very beautiful. Then some producer had called all the musicians to the front stage to sing “We Are the World” and I was left alone backstage, so I pulled out my [sketch] pad and I drew an angel hugging the world. That was my little expression for the moment. Later on, I was asked to make a large painting [of it], and it later found itself there at the same stadium for an auction. It was amazing.
What do you have in-store for your St. Louis fans at this upcoming show?
It will be like a mini-museum retrospective. There will be works from every period, from the ’60s up until now. Paintings, prints, and drawings; many different things, including very famous icons like the “Flower Blossom Lady,” “Man With Umbrella” and, of course, the [American] flags and [Statue of] Liberties. I love St. Louis. I can’t wait to be there.
For more information, and to view some of Max’s work, log on to his Web site at www.petermax.com.