23 July 2010

Wash Out

For this Flashback Friday, we return to 1986 to see this funky collection of kitchen faucets inspired by Peter Max, who started out in the 70s as a graphic designer with a unique Pop-psychedelic style and ended up following in the cheesy footsteps of LeRoy Neiman, sporting-event lithographer. The faucet itself has some character, but the colors—red and yellow [white, black and almond really don't count]—are anything but imaginative. A missed opportunity.

1 comment:

  1. First of all, it's brown, not black — warm brown according to the text. EPIC licensed the painting and the Peter Max name to enhance a product line and to develop an advertising campaign. Peter Max neither designed the faucet nor specified the colors. That should be obvious. EPIC found the colors in his paintings. The faucets in their colors were inspired by Peter Max. So, if an opportunity was missed, it was missed solely by EPIC. For me, yellow and red faucets still seem a bit far out. Perhaps in 1986 they were totally far out. It's difficult to fault them for not doing what still might not sell. Fuchsia faucets for the American home?

    Also, Peter Max did not start out in the 70s as a graphic designer. His first big success was in the early 60s. By something of an accident, he received a commission to paint the cover for the Blues Piano Artistry of Meade Lux Lewis. It received the annual Society of Illustrators award and brought him instant fame as an illustrator. But his background, as anyone who has seen that cover will find obvious, was in the fine, not the graphic arts.

    In fact, Peter Max helped to define the 60s. By 1970 he was not starting out, he was everywhere. He was having his first major retrospective. The products he inspired and the name he licensed had already generated more than a billion dollars in sales according to his website. My kids wore Peter Max socks and had Peter Max beach towels, and they pestered me for posters. By 1986 he was a senior statesman of sorts working in a new style, the style of the picture in the ad you've provided, but could we ever have lived in that yellow submarine without the cosmic artwork of Peter Max?

    To say that he is "following in the cheesy footsteps of LeRoy Neiman" is to suggest that he has fallen to the level of Playboy illustrator. The body of his work, even his current work, would suggest otherwise. I suppose you're referring to his sports posters, the ones done in the same style he mastered in the 60s. Perhaps you're saying something about his retail and Internet sales. Maybe he's supposed to die and go back to the 60s. People who live too long are always a problem. The sports works form a segment of his production, not something he has sunk to. If he is nothing else, he is prolific, and commercial. Peter Max continues to define, whether we like what he does or not, what is today. LeRoy Neiman continues to be cheesy. But the flower children are gone and even the children of their children are safely at home watching Dale Earnhardt, arguing about the Super Bowl, waiting for their personalized posters of Shaquille O'Neal to arrive by FedEx at their doorstep. (All available at petermax.com.) He has his finger on the pulse of America. We continue to get what we deserve.

    This is now, and a wonderful now it is. How many of these bright descendants of the 60s could find Afghanistan on a map if their Diet Pepsi depended on it? Peter Max knows.

    Fuchsia, more fuchsia.

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