“He, Plus Art, Equals Heart”
An Exhibition of the Iconic Peter Max
Writer / Janelle Morrison
An incredibly rare and remarkable event is about to unfold in historic downtown Zionsville. This October 7-9, CV Art and Frame is hosting the iconic artist Peter Max and an exhibition of some of his brilliant works of art.
“It is an overwhelming honor to have Peter Max come here to our gallery,” expressed Barbara Jennings, owner of CV Art and Frame. “To be able to host and share this genuine gentleman and his love and happiness with all of our community is an incredible opportunity. He truly is a gentle man, and that comes through in his nature. Yet, he has this vivacious part of his personality that comes out in all of these brilliant colors in his work.
“I hope that people will be able to take away new appreciation for art in its genuine form. I would love for people who are just meeting him or just being introduced to his work to be able to recognize why he is who is he is today after so many decades, to understand why he’s still creating work and what makes him a legend.”
Peter Max was born in Germany in 1937 and escaped Berlin with his parents to China where he lived for a decade. His family moved from China to Israel and then to Paris, France, for a few months. It was during those months when Max was 16 years old that his appreciation for art was greatly influenced. Max’s work spans over four decades, and his pieces are recognizable by his use of bright colors, psychedelic shapes and pop culture-focused nature of his art. He is globally renowned as a “neo-fauvist” and a “neo-expressionist.”
In 1968, Max met Swami Satchidananda. That moment was life-changing for him and introduced him to yoga. “I am very involved in that … and with the spirituality that comes along with all of that,” Max explained. “My spirituality penetrates throughout all of my work and is integrated into it all of the time.” Max attributes countless mentors, teachers, family and friends as a source of inspiration and support throughout his career.
The introduction of the Pentel, a felt-tip pen invented by the Japanese in the 1960s, allowed Max to draw a continual and smooth line for as long as he wished. “Drawing is like sailing,” he said. “Sometimes you have to sit very quietly and patiently wait for a breeze, and then suddenly, a breeze comes along, and your sails billow and you glide across the water effortlessly.”
Max was featured on the cover of Life Magazine in 1969 after his artwork appeared on mass transit posters for the Metro Transit in New York.
“The 1960s was an important cultural revolution in many ways,” Max stated. “We suddenly became aware of our interdependent relationships with the whole earth, with one another, the environment, plants and animals. It was a period of great transformation; its reverberations are still being felt today.”
In 1974, he was commissioned by the U.S. Postal Service to create the art for the first 10-cent postage stamp. The new denomination of the U.S. stamp was meant to celebrate the environmental movement, and he was selected to create it because of the artwork and posters that he had created to support Earth Day. Another notable commission for Max was his commissioning to paint a $600 million titanium canvas, a Continental Airlines Boeing 777 Super Jet.
Max often features his love of jazz music and images of celebrities, politicians, athletes, sporting events and other pop culture subjects in his artwork. Max has been the official artist for many major events, including the 1994 World Cup, the GRAMMY Awards, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Super Bowl and other historical events such as Woodstock and even the Indy 500 program.
“I also put my brush to Dale Earnhardt, Sr.’s NASCAR speedster. Dale told me, ‘Peter, your colorful brushstrokes make my car look like it’s moving as even when it’s standing still.”
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Max created six posters that benefited the September 11 Fund. Max also created a portrait tribute to the 356 firefighters who perished that day. He presented the painted portraits, each individually wrapped in an American flag, to each firefighter’s family.
“I hoped that the 21st century would fulfill many of our global dreams: world peace, the end of world hunger, humane care for animals, sustainability and advancements in healthcare and technologies that would improve the quality of life around the globe,” Max said. “The most beautiful thing that we have is love and the commonality in that. Freedom is what I value most in life, and I’m happy to say that my lifelong goal of keeping myself in a space of creative and spiritual freedom has been met, even though at times it has been difficult.”
Max elaborated more on how his love of colors, experiences and people from all over the world are what inspires him to continue to create and share his work.
“Every day fills me up, and whatever I do fills me completely for the day, the week and the month. Being involved in colors, paint, my brushes and being able to put it all out there for people to enjoy is what I love and where my joy comes from. If you surround yourself with art, your inspirations and doing what you love, then you are on the right track. Sharing our experiences and appreciating art is important. It adds a lot to the lives of people.
“Although we are living in increasingly uncertain times, I try to maintain the same hope that I had at the beginning of the century and that I’ve gravitated to since the 1960s. I renew this hope by painting and through committing to environmental causes, especially animal rights. I am always ready to create art and to help raise funds for important causes.
“Swami Satchidananda inspired me when he said, ‘Our greatest purpose is to express what is in our heart. Those who have the talent should express it through their art.’ He pointed up and, using the masculine pronoun for God, said, ‘He, plus art, equals heart.’”
For more information on Peter Max’s exhibit in Zionsville, visit cvartandframe.com.