The 61 works in this exhibition… span the career of an American painter whose art has, for more than half a century, both diagnosed national maladies and been shaped by them. The result is work that’s virtuosically bizarre in style (Tiepolo meets Mad magazine) and ecumenically offensive in content. Whatever your ethnic, sexual or political persuasion, there is something here to give you ethical pause, to bring out an inner censor you didn’t know was there.
(Holland Carter, “The Wild, Anti-Authoritarian Art of Peter Saul,” NYTimes, 2-13-20)
I don’t warm to Peter Saul’s paintings a great deal, but I do find stimulation in the motivation behind them and in how he has chosen many of his subjects.
[When] Mr. Saul returned from Europe to California in 1964, he was clear on what he wanted, and didn’t want, from art… He didn’t want the pretensions — the ego, the angst — left over from Abstract Expressionism. And he didn’t want the social trappings associated with a mainstream career… What he did want was to be able to paint what he pleased and to have his work noticed. And one way to get people looking was to take subjects from a source they cared about: the news.
At 85 Saul is still hard at work, and claims in recent years, writes Holland Carter skeptically, “that all he’s ever really been interested in was opportunistically grabbing attention by being outrageous.”
(c) 2020 JMN