Peter Max art on exhibit, for sale, at Pittsburgh gallery
Peter Max’s artwork may conjure up memories of the “psychedelic era” — neon pops of color on college dorm walls and album covers, beginning in the 1960s.
His fans know his creativity also has shown up on a postage stamp, Grammy posters, New York City’s Yellow Pages covers, clocks and dozens of other product lines.
Portrait subjects have included presidents and rock stars; he’s created anniversary posters for Earth Day and to benefit 9/11 charities.
In 1976, a U.S. General Services commission led to Max creating 235 “Welcome to America” border murals, displayed at entry points between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico.
His work even shows up in oceans, on the hulls of cruise ships.
Max has mounted one-man museum exhibitions since 1970, and a selection of his paintings will be on display — and for sale — in Pittsburgh from May 11-19 at the Christine Frechard Gallery, 5126 Butler St., in the city’s Lawrenceville neighborhood.
Long-time curator Lesley Smith is overseeing the traveling show, “Peter Max: Woodstock 50th Anniversary Celebration.”
The collection features works celebrating the 1969 music festival on a Catskill Mountains dairy farm in upstate New York.
Max, now 81, no longer travels with his shows, Smith says.
“We have seen him hang the art exactly the way Peter wants it done,” she says.
“I’ve been on the road with Peter for 20 years,” Smith says. “He’s defined a generation. During the years I’ve worked with him, he’s done everything from paint cruise ships to presidents.
“The length of the show is always the same. We do a 10-day exhibit, starting with a private party. … Until a few years ago, Peter traveled with us. Even though he is very prolific, there is a limited amount of work. I try for 120 unique works of art at every show,” Smith says.
Max is a trained graphic artist, Smith says, who started in the 1960s and 1970s with poster art. Eventually, there was a line of Max designed glasses, bed sheets and fondue pots.
Many times fans brought those items to shows, requesting that Max sign them.
Still in vogue
“There is a whole ’nother group of fans that may have had Peter Max bed sheets because their parents were fans. I’m now selling to my third generation. Parents got works for their kids as wedding presents; now they have grandchildren who are starting a collection,” Smith says.
“He’s been the official artist of just about anything sports — NFL, the Kentucky Derby,” she says.
At one point he painted Dale Earnhardt’s NASCAR Millennium car.
“He was a huge environmentalist, way before ‘being green’ was popular,” Smith says.
The U.S. Postal Service commissioned him in 1974 to design the first environmental U.S. postage stamp, commemorating Expo ’74 World’s Fair in Spokane, Wash. The 10-cent stamp includes the line “Preserve the Environment.”
He worked with then-Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca in the early 1980s on a Liberty Renovation project to restore the Statue of Liberty.
“We will have some of the retro work, ’60’s and ’70’s, not vintage. … Peter paints some images over and over again. They are sacred icons, like members of his family — patriotic pieces, environmental pieces,” Smith says.
“All are unique, all come with certification of authenticity from (Peter) Max Studio,” she says.
On average, Smith curates one Peter Max show a month, and it revisits some galleries, as it is with Christine Frechard Gallery.
“She reached out to see if we would like to come back,” she says.
Gallery receptions, free and open to the public, will be held from 6-9 p.m. May 17, 5-8 p.m. May 18 and 1-3 p.m. May 19.
Reservations are required by calling 724-766-0104 or emailing christine [email protected]
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, [email protected] or via Twitter .