The 1960’s in the United States was a time for counterculture and a revolution against standard social norms. It was coined The Swinging Sixties due to the collapse of certain social taboos ranging from topics as innocent as music to more serious topics such as racism. The 60’s was a time for change, a time for love, and a time for peace. Peter Max was a pivotal influence in defining this generation and he nostalgically continues to do so to this day. His vibrantly colored, bold pieces of art beautifully mirror the vibrancy of the 60’s culture. The themes in his works, such as cultural references, love and music, also mirror the themes of the time.
Woodstock was definitely one of the main highlights of the 60’s and played a major role in Max’s life. Max states, “Woodstock was a gathering of young people that brought on real cultural change in many ways. It was one of the ’60s touchstones that brought us the modern peace movement, a return to natural foods, a raised awareness of ecology and stewardship of our beautiful planet and of human and animal rights.” Rolling Stone has Woodstock listed as one of the 50 moments that changed the history of Rock and Roll; it was the Mecca for a large counterculture generation and very influential on Max’s career. Peter Max was a close friend of Michael Lang, one of the co-creators of Woodstock, and helped him with the festival. It was there where Max met many of the musicians that he has painted things like album covers and tour posters for over the years. He has worked with some amazing musicians like The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix. He also created a clothing collection with Wrangler in the early ‘70s. They were very popular with the Woodstock generation and now, even in modern times, they are still so popular he is doing a reboot collaboration with Wrangler. When asked how Max feels about the undying popularity of his shirts and posters he said, “I love it. And now I see people post and tag my art and my vintage art products and clothing on Instagram. It’s just great seeing new generations discover my work.”
The multigenerational appreciation for Peter Max’s works doesn’t stop at clothing and posters; he states that, “there are all ages at my gallery shows – parents and grandparents with their kids and grandkids. I learned a few years ago that Taylor Swift had been a fan of mine since she was a young girl. I painted portraits for her of her album covers that we printed as posters for her fans. You just never know who is going to see your work and be inspired by it. I’ve always loved bringing my art to the people, and I’m thrilled to see new generations enjoying my work.” Max’s work can most easily be described as eccentric; his use of many vivid colors to depict themes such as love, music, patriotism, and popular icons is nothing short of unique. They don’t only evoke feelings of nostalgia but they also remind the viewer to not view life so single dimensionally. There is not a single one of max’s pieces that is not dynamic, expressive, and complex; it is those qualities that have made him such an influence in the art world and in the perception of 60’s culture and counterculture.
Those qualities are what also make his art so timeless. To capture the essence of a generation while also influencing future ones is no easy feat. Max says that he’d, “like to be remembered as a multi-dimensional artist who used bold color to bring art and joy to people – in museums and galleries and on people’s walls or on their favorite t-shirt or magazine cover. I’d like to think my work captured the innovation, progress and pulse of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.” Here at Baterby’s Art Gallery we agree and are very proud to showcase multiple of Peter Max’s iconic works. We carry a variety of his art from original pieces to posters spanning throughout his successful career. So stop in today to catch a glimpse of his breathtaking works.
Author: Jessica Gerenger