This Saturday, the Museum at Bethel Woods will be reopening for the season following its winter hiatus. This year’s special exhibit, on view through December 31, 2018, will offer survivors of the ’60s a nostalgic wallow in the psychedelic imagery that helped define the look of the era. Bringing together for the first time the collections of Robert Casterline and Shelly Fireman, the exhibition is titled “Peter Max: Early Paintings,” and documents the period in the wildly popular neo-Fauvist/Pop artist’s career just as he was attaining international fame. Artworks included in the exhibition span the period from 1967 through 1972.
Born Peter Max Finkelstein in Berlin in 1937, the artist was an infant when his family fled the rise of Nazism for Shanghai, where they lived for the next ten years before relocating to Haifa, then Paris and finally Brooklyn. In 1956, Max began his formal art training at the Art Students League of New York, studying anatomy, figure drawing and composition under Frank J. Reilly.
Beginning in 1962, Max and his friends Tom Daly and Don Rubbo collaborated in a small Manhattan commercial arts studio, which brought Max his first recognition for an advertising campaign. Much of their work incorporated antique photographic images as elements of collage. Max’s interest in astronomy drove the development of the “spacy” imagery of his self-described “Cosmic ’60s” period, when his artwork in poster form became a staple of many a dorm-room wall. The pervasive influence of his signature style can be seen in such countercultural iconography of the era as the animation in the Beatles’ film Yellow Submarine and the “head comix” of such cartoonists as R. Crumb and Gilbert Shelton.
The museum doors will open for the 2018 season at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 7. A private brunch and special exhibition preview is scheduled for Bethel Woods members that morning, and the Special Exhibition will open to the general public at 11:30 a.m. Museum director/senior curator Wade Lawrence will conduct gallery walks of “Peter Max: Early Paintings” for the general public at 12, 2 and 4 p.m. on Opening Day.
In support of this year’s special exhibit and in celebration of the Museum’s tenth anniversary, 12 regional artists will present “Doors to Originality,” a series of original Peter Max-inspired designs on vintage wooden doors. This outdoor installation, displayed throughout the Bethel Woods grounds, opens on June 2: ten years to the day that the Museum at Bethel Woods opened its own doors.
Access to “Peter Max: Early Paintings” is included in the regular museum admission price of $15 for adults, $13 for seniors (65+), $11 for youth (8 to 17) and $6 for children (3 to 7). Special-exhibition-only admission costs $5. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday from April 7 to 29, and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day from April 30 to September 3. The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is located at 200 Hurd Road in Bethel. For more info, visit www.bethelwoodscenter.org.