Pop-psychedelic Americana painter to meet fans at retrospective exhibit

Listen to Peter Max reminisce long enough, and the painter starts to sound like the elder statesman of American pop-art itself, with his sensational tales of grabbing coffee with Paul McCartney (just last month), or shaking hands with presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan (decades ago). Then there was the time he singlehandedly led an effort, in 1981, to renovate the Statue of Liberty.

Max relishes retelling the story of his "Statue of Liberty" series — begun in 1976 after spotting Lady Liberty from his apartment window — which led to a chance meeting during the early '80s with Reagan and then-Chrysler Motors chairman Lee Iacocca to help finance the statue's restoration.

"Lee was in my apartment and was a big patriot and I asked him to help with renovating. He raised $300 million," recalls Max, speaking from his Manhattan studio. "I don't want to be egotistical about it, but I kind of spearheaded that, yes."

If Max sounds boastful about his outsize influence, the renowned painter of psychedelic interpretations of everything from celebrity portraitures to the "Umbrella Man" has earned it.


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About 200 of Max's most iconic works are on display at the Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton locations of the Wentworth Gallery, through March 17, including one from the "Statue of Liberty" series, "Liberty Head;" "Vase of Flowers," "Umbrella Man" and the Big Apple-centric works "Statue of Liberty" and "Central Park." Max is expected to make an appearance at the galleries on Saturday.

As the designated artist of past Grammy Awards and Super Bowls, the illustrator, born 75 years ago in Berlin, now has little to prove.

So, what's next for Max?

"Animations," says Max, who began his career as a realist after graduating from The Art Students League of New York, where he learned from Frank J. Reilly, a childhood peer of Norman Rockwell. He later developed the Max-ian style of pop-Expressionism in the early-'60s.

"It's the easiest thing to do for a guy like me. I'm an amazing storyteller, and love making stories up," Max says. "I'm going to make seven full-length feature films with my aesthetic."

If you go

When: Exhibit through March 17; meet the artist Saturday, from 1-3 p.m. in Fort Lauderdale and 6-9 p.m. in Boca Raton

Where: Wentworth Gallery, 819 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, and 517 Town Center Mall, Boca Raton

Cost: Free

Contact: 954-468-0685 (Las Olas), 561-338-0804 (Boca Raton)