Monday, January 28, 2008
Just a few brief words on the Peter Max madhouse this weekend at R. Roberts Gallery: Incidentally, the above two pictures were shot while the cops weren’t looking, and right afterwards I was told, “no pictures please.”
But moving on, for my day job, I write at a local arts magazine, and this time around, one of my assignments was to interview Peter Max. He is, I am happy to say, one of the nicest men it’s even been my pleasure to speak with. The impact of his work aside (which one may or may not like), he truly believes in the tenant of compassion, living and working within a framework of belief that calls for him to honor his own body and contribute to the community as a whole.
So it was with curiosity and a little bit of trepidation that I headed up to the gallery on Sunday (even at the museum opening I overheard people talking about Peter Max). The place was packed; there was a line out the door for people who wanted to get things signed, and there was another line of people who’d just purchased things and were getting them signed, along with a photo of the artist (I guess that’s why there was a “no pictures” policy…silly and a little capitalist, but perhaps necessary to control the crowd…draw your own conclusions).
It was an interesting intersection of fine art and commerce, of celebrity and artist, and the approapriatness of it all. Yet perhaps this is just the organic outcome of a lifetime spent hanging out with celebrities and celebrity artists (one imagines Warhol would embrace it as the natural order), and of a culture that seeks to validuate itself through contact with these notables, even if it is only fleeting and peripheral. The only time I’ve seen something similar was when Frank Stella came to town. People mobbed him and asked him to pose for pictures too.
As to the aesthetic value of Max's work, unarguably it evokes a specific time and mindset, which, although I can’t relate to, seemed certainly to heighten the spirits of a certain generation…I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever been to an opening where more people were smiling.
At that point, whether or not one bitter scribe aesthetically agrees with the work at hand becomes a moot point. Time to relax and be happy for everyone else.