Peter Max Finkelstein was born in Germany in 1938.
He moved from Berlin to Shanghai, an article from Public Radio International (PRI) recounts, when his family joined thousands of other Jews who fled Nazi Germany. He lived there with his parents in a vibrant Jewish neighborhood nicknamed Little Vienna until he was 10 years old. He lived in other countries during his studies, including Israel, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1953.
Of course, today you may know him as just Peter Max, the artist whose bright, colorful works feature bold, cosmic images that often seem to ’90s babies like a precursor to the art of Lisa Frank.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Max’s art became particularly popular in the ’60s.
Psychedelic art was the “big thing” when he came on the scene, he recounted in the 2012 interview with PRI.
He has created album covers and concert posters for bands like The Grateful Dead and The Beatles, painted for six presidents, and his art has even graced a Continental Airlines Boeing 777 Jet and the Berlin Wall. He was the official artist for the Grammys six times.
Now, you can meet him.
If you’re heading down the shore for the holiday weekend, take a trip over to Stone Harbor, N.J. Max will be at Ocean Galleries on July 1 and 2 at 7 p.m. as part of a special exhibition, “Peter Max – Summer of Love 50th Anniversary,” which will be open from June 30 to July 5.
The exhibition features a vast collection of his artworks, including pieces in celebration of the Summer of Love, the 1967 phenomenon when 100,000 young artists and people converged on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco.
“I remember the ‘Summer of Love’ vividly,” Max said in a press release. “It was a great cultural revolution, and out of it came the peace movement, ecology, natural foods, yoga, meditation, animal rights and great rock music from Hendrix, Dylan, The Beatles, The Who, Ravi Shankar, The Mamas and the Papas, and so many others. So much incredible music. The chords, sounds and rhythms of this era influenced the movement of my brushstrokes, and still do.”
Max’s presence in the New Jersey town has been a staple for about 20 years.
“He’s probably the oldest living pop artist at this point of his popularity, and he draws a big crowd,” Ocean Galleries owner Kim Miller said.
Turning 79 this year, Max still is hard at work and paints every day, Miller said.
While she said she can’t point to a specific reason why his work has remained popular, she noted that his work has been a cultural mainstay.
“His colors are amazing, and he’s just an icon in this business,” she said.
Max has created — in addition to the cosmic images for which he has become so well known — site-specific works that also speak to his own values.
His patriotic pieces, like of the Statue of Liberty, have become as popular as his portraits of stars like Steven Tyler and Taylor Swift.
He has also created beachy works like Stone Harbor and Avalon boats.
Celebrating the Summer of Love is a way to hearken back to an emergent moment in music and art in America.
“It was a time we’ll never have back,” Miller said. “It’s a transitional time for America and for music and for art, and that’s why we celebrate it.”
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