Pop Rocks

Peter Max Talks About Celebrity Clients Bill Clinton and Steven Tyler

Peter Max has, in his New York studio, hosted four American presidents, members of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and countless other musicians.

No big deal.

Years ago, pop artist Max - who commercially made a dent in the art world with his cosmic '60s painting style -- also invited Aerosmith frontman and American Idol judge Steven Tyler over to his space. While there, Max unveiled numerous portraits of Tyler to the rock icon. One of those is displayed at Tyler's house.

Fast forward to March of this year, and Tyler, who Max says is "a friendly, fun-loving guy," was presented with a sixty-third birthday gift during American Idol. It ended up being a multi-hued portrait of Tyler, courtesy of the pop-art crackerjack.

This painting and other seminal works will be displayed for the first time in a public setting this weekend when Off the Wall Gallery, 5015 Westheimer, Suite 2208 (located in Galleria Tower I), hosts an exhibition that will showcase various pieces from Max's extensive body of work.

When the 73-year-old Max paints celebrity portraits, he doesn't whip out one or two. In the case of former president Clinton, it was closer to triple figures.

"You can imagine standing next to Bill Clinton and I show him one-hundred Clinton portraits. He went out of his mind. He couldn't believe it," Max tells Art Attack. "He thought that he was going to see three or four, and he said this was the biggest thing of his life. He was probably just trying to be nice to me to say something like that."

About his painting M.O., Max says his best works have been improvised sessions while perched in front of the easel.

"When I attack a canvas, I don't want to know what is going to come out. I want it to surprise me," he says. "It's like a jazz pianist sitting down and just hitting those keyboards, you know? Then people are like, 'Well, what's the name of that song?' and he says, 'I don't know, I just made it up.' My best paintings are like that."

Reception hours for Max's exhibit are from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. Off the Wall Gallery is at 5015 Westheimer, #2208. For more information, call (713) 871-0940.

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Steve Jansen is a contributing writer for the Houston Press.
Contact: Steve Jansen