Woodstock '99 Report #11: Pop Artist Peter Max Adjusts Palette For New Musical Era

Creator of famed '60s poster art is back as designer of festival's stage backdrops.

ROME, N.Y. — Like Woodstock, '60s art icon Peter Max has changed with the times.

Max, who designed the massive, psychedelic stages of Woodstock '99, came to fame in the hippie era and became associated with the psychedelic music of that time. But on Friday he said the bands he most looked forward to seeing at the festival included ultra-hard rockers Limp Bizkit and Rage Against the Machine.

Still, one thing he said remains the same is his artistic message.

The pop artist whose brilliant, rainbow-hued imagery helped define graphic-design style in the '60s, admitted that the peace-and-love message of the original Woodstock might be hard to discern in the music of the current fest's bands. But he said it's there nonetheless.

"It's all part of evolution and development. It might not be soft and cute, but there can be a lot of love in it," Max said during a press conference early Friday afternoon.

While "soft and cute" might not be the proper adjectives to describe harsh Limp Bizkit songs such as "Nookie"

(RealAudio excerpt), those words might well apply to Max's stage designs, which are essentially massive collages of

his best-known artwork.

The backdrops for the two main stages include images of clouds, planets and flowers, as well as a rendition of the original dove-and-guitar Woodstock symbol.

Max, 56, and his Manhattan company, Peter Max Productions, created the design in only three days, he said.

"It was a real rush job," said his daughter, Libra, 24, who works at the company and helped put together the design, which has since come to life as a 500-by-80-foot stage.

While he is linked, through his art, to the '60s spirit Woodstock helped create, Max was also involved in the original festival in other capacities.

He recruited the Indian spiritual leader Swami Satchidananda to open the festival with a short inspirational speech: "The whole world is watching us.

It is up to the youth of America to show the world that we can celebrate

with music in peace and love."

Max, who repeated those words onstage at the opening of Woodstock '94, said he believes young people can still be inspired by Woodstock.

"A lot of the kids here have yet to become successful, have yet to find a niche in life," he said. "The spirit of Woodstock is the kind that will guide people and show them where to go."