King of rainbows

Even at 74, iconic painter Peter Max still feels part of the counterculture movement


MAXED OUT | Pop artist Peter Max designed the psychedlic cover exclusively for Dallas Voice, but he’s long specialized in American iconography as his subjects, including the Dallas skyline, above.

Arnold Wayne Jones  |  Life+Style Editor

Even though Peter Max isn’t gay, for 40 years, he’s been a natural fit with the gay community.

The traditional rainbow-colored Pride flag debuted in 1978, but Max has been doing rainbows since the psychedelic ’60s, always with a distinctive, primary-color-field.

Might he have been an influence? Even Max isn’t sure.

“I am certainly aware of the [Pride flag], though I don’t know if I was an influence. But if I was, I’m glad!” says the 74-year-old artist on the phone from his studio in New York.

There’s no mistaking a Peter Max painting; after decades in the spotlight, he has become iconic. With his cosmic-wow, eye-catching pieces, he has long been the pop! in pop art.

Max is as famous for his commercial pieces — a 1974 postage stamp, album covers (especially The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine), his “Love” poster from the 1970s, and his fascination with the Statue of Liberty — as he is for his gallery work. (Full disclosure: I’ve had a signed Lady Liberty poster in my office for eight years — it always gets noticed.)

Cover“The commercial stuff is one in 100 — the other 99 times is me just dancing on the canvas. But it’s often very public,” he says. “But I do still identify with the counterculture movement — I’m still a hippie at heart.”

He also stays in touch with his ’60s roots — just recently he did another series of portraits with long-time friend Ringo Starr.

Max brings that hippie aesthetic to North Texas this weekend with two appearances: At Wisby-Smith Fine Art in the Crescent on Friday night, Nov. 18, and Saturday afternoon, Nov. 19, then at Milan Gallery in Fort Worth Saturday night.

Even into his 70s, Max continues to work with the stamina of someone a fraction of his age — and he never seems to grow tired of it.

“It’s natural. I come to my studio and I have a tremendous will to paint. That’s amplified 100 times when I stand in front a canvas. When I pick up the brush, it’s amplified 10 times more. When I touch the brush to the paint, I don’t know what I’m painting — I just stand there and am amazed that a painting comes out.

“It’s like a jazz musician who hasn’t written down any of his songs.”
So enthusiastic is Max about his art that he designed the cover of this issue exclusively for Dallas Voice.

“It’s what I do. I paint, I draw, I go to gallery openings , I meet  people, I have a beautiful sweetheart of a wife and I do lovely interviews like I’m doing with you. I’m most proud about all of it, from the first time I started to this very moment talking to you. I’m serious about [my art], but I want to be playful, too,” Max says.
Next up for him: He’s going to do some more licensing of his work — something he hasn’t done in years — and plans to break into animation. But it’s all good.

“When I go to my gallery shows, it’s all young people,” he says. “It’s mind-boggling. I never dreamt my life would be like this. I love it all — every second of it.”
Wisby-Smith Fine Art, 500 Crescent Court, suite 146. Nov. 18, 6–9 p.m., Nov. 19, 1–3 p.m.
Milan Gallery, 505 Houston St., Fort Worth. Nov. 19, 7–10 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Tasting notes: Valentine edition

Need ideas for how to spend a romantic dinner with your sweetie? We got ’em

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor

Lots of restaurants are getting in the mood for romance, so you and your sweetie can choose from among these options — and many more:

La Duni — The Oak Lawn and McKinney avenue locations offer a four-course dinner for $50/person that includes a champagne toast. Don’t forget to pre-order a lovey-dovey cupcake.

The Mansion on Turtle Creek — A three-course meal, including dessert, runs you $125 on Feb. 14. Make it more romantic by booking a room for the weekend rate. 214-443-4747.

Nana — The Hilton Anatole is doing the same as The Mansion, offering a $99 four-course meal plus the option to book a guest room for as low as $79. 214-761-7470.

The Landmark — The restaurant inside the Warwick Melrose is really keeping it romantic, with a set price per couple. For $150, you can each put together the ideal four-course meal, served Feb. 12 and 14. Call 214-224-3152.

The Grape — The romantic bistro features a la carte choices Friday through Sunday, then a three-course tasting menu for $65/person. 214-828-1981.

Bijoux — Full disclosure: I spent Valentine’s Day here last year, and for good reason: The food is superb, and it really stands up as event dining. For $85/person, chef Scott Gottlich will whip up an exquisite four-course meal that includes lobster bisque, duo of veal and a filet, among other delectables. 214-350-6100.

The Second Floor — Over at Gottlich’s other restaurant, adorable chef J Chastain has something unusual in mind for a holiday dinner: You put it together. Rather than the traditional prix fixe menu, from Feb. 12–14 you can select from a range of popular and romantic items, from $9 to $34, for the ideal custom meal. Call 927-450-2978.

Salum — Chef Abraham Salum has a jazzy menu planned for Feb 14, that includes jazz music from singer Nadia Washington and a complimentary glass of champagne. The three-course meal costs $65.

Sprinkles — Those demons at Sprinkles have taunted me again with new flavors, available for Valentine’s. You can choose from a red hot velvet (with spicy cinnamon aroma) or raspberry chocolate chip. Both are available through Feb. 14 in the Preston Center location.

On the heels of Valentine’s is a food and wine showcase to warm the blood. Bonne Sante features chefs including Scott Gottlich, Abraham Salum, Tony Bombaci (Nana), Dean Fearing (Fearing’s), Bruno Davilion (The Mansion) and Blaine Staniford (Grace), as well as several wineries. Individual tickets run $200 and benefit the National Kidney Foundation. It takes place at the Westin Galleria on Feb. 16 from 6 to 9 p.m. 214-3512-2393.

Central 214 is instituting a “pick your plate” option, starting Feb. 15. For a flat price of $30, customers can choose one salad or soup, one entrée and one dessert from Blythe Beck’s menu. 214-443-9339.

We blogged recently about John Tesar’s new restaurant in the Cedars, Cedars Social, which officially opened this week. Well, he’s got more on his plate, including The Commissary, which will open in April in the space last occupied by Dali in One Arts Plaza. It will feature burgers, wine on tap and late night meals.

Fin Sushi, from the people responsible for Sushi Axiom on Henderson, has officially opened in the ilume. BEE, Monica Greene’s new enchiladaria, is open in Oak Cliff.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright