Peter Max has been called the most popular artist in the world. And if you know anything about his work, that doesn't sound like exaggeration. His colorful, psychedelic pop art became some of the most iconic images of the 1960s. In his prolific career, he's produced stamps, covers for Time and Newsweek, and he's been the official artist of major events, from the Grammys to the Super Bowl. His art is on display around the globe. In addition to designing City Pages' cover this week, he spoke to us about his career.
City Pages: Is it a little strange having a career resurgence after so many years?
Peter Max: Yeah, it's amazing. My work exploded in 1967 and '68. I came out of art school in realism and everybody said, 'Oh, my god, this stuff is really good. But if we need realism we get photography.' What happened for me was that I had another passion. I was always very interested in astronomy. So, I started painting stars and planets, and an art director discovered me. I walked out of this guy's office with 12 jobs. When I delivered them, I had 22 more jobs. Nine months later I was on the cover of Life magazine with that stuff. It was never intended to be new style. I was just putzing around with another passion of mine.
CP: Your art and style have become iconic. That also means you are often imitated. Do you ever feel like other artists have ripped you off or made a living off of your ideas?
PM: It happens. I don't have any bad feelings about it. I guess they're a fan, and eventually they get into their own thing. If somebody does a rip-off where they directly copy something and they put it on a product, then we send them a letter. But if they're inspired by it, I'm okay with it.
CP: You've done the covers of major magazines, you've created art using the Berlin Wall, you've turned jumbo jets into your canvas. Are you ever going to retire? Is there anything else for you to accomplish?
PM: To retire would be to give up my joy. I'm like Gene Kelly on the dance floor. I just love it. I can't think of doing anything but being creative. The beautiful thing about all this is that creativity brings me to all walks of life. I wouldn't even know what else to do. What would I do if I retired? This is my game. In China, as a boy, we played marbles. Now I play the game of creativity.
Peter Max's gallery show opens this Friday. He visits the Twin Cities later this month in an artist's reception from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26, and noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27.
Sept. 19-27, 2008