Nassau County Museum of Art
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First In-Depth Look at
Peter Max’s Original Drawings

October 25, 2013 through February 23, 2014

Peter Max, Love, 2006 @ Peter Max 2013, Courtesy of the Artist
Peter Max,
Untitled #1, 1968 @ Peter Max 2013, Courtesy of the Artist


For the first time, this bold exhibition of drawings
unveils a vast trove of Peter Max’s most personal work.
Charles A. Riley II, Ph.D., “Song without Words: Peter Max in Black and White”

Peter Max is “one of the most widely recognized artists of our time” said art historian Charles A. Riley II, Ph.D. This exhibition, the lauded 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 color-saturated works in a variety of media. The showing at Nassau County Museum of Art is the first in-depth look at this well-known artist's original drawings, which cover a wide range of subjects; sunsets over oceans and rolling landscapes, angels and winged figures in motion, boats sailing through idyllic harbors, cosmic imagery of planets and celestial bodies in space, portraits in profile and figures drawn from life and spiritual teachers such as swamis, gurus and sages. The exhibition presents a broad array of one of the most recognizable and successful artistic careers of our times.

Peter Max’s magical, fantastical works have their roots in his childhood. Born in Berlin, he was taken to Shanghai as an infant. There he lived for ten 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, Wonder Woman and Plastic Man—who carried him away to fantasies of other worlds. His growing 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 its ultimate destination: the United States. Enthralled by the billboards, fashions, music, automobiles, movie theaters and towering skyscrapers, it was America that truly captured Peter Max’s imagination.

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, the author of The Art of Peter Max, a major book about the artist, places Peter Max’s paintings “…within a continuum of Modernists such as Van Gogh and Gauguin, Matisse and the Fauves, Kandinsky ad Expressionism, Josef Albers and Frank Stella.”

Peter Max revolutionized art of the 60s just as the Beatles transformed the music of that decade. From visionary pop artist, to master of dynamic neo Expressionism, Peter Max is an inextricable part of the fabric of contemporary American culture.