If you’re unfamiliar with Peter Saul, do yourself a favour and click over to read John Yau’s article at Hyperallergic. Peter Saul has never known any fear when tackling the hot and heavy subjects of the day, and that has not changed.
In the 1960s, Saul titled two of his paintings, “Mickey Mouse vs. The Japs” (1962) and “I Torture Commie Virgins” (1967). The 1970s brought “Crucifixion of Angela Davis” (1973). In 1990, he did a painting titled “Legal Abortion,” and in 1993, he did one of Jeffrey Dahmer strapped into an electric chair, celebrating his birthday with a cake made from a butchered male pelvis.
Saul’s recurring subject is pain and abuse of all kinds — what we inflict on others and do to ourselves. It seems that the only way he can embrace these often monstrous subjects, and whatever they stir up in him, is with scandalous humor. This is why such distinctions as tasteful and tasteless seem beside the point when looking at and thinking about Saul’s garish work, which is just one reason why he is such an important artist. He also happens to be an amazing colorist and terrific caricaturist. More than socially conscious, he is a formally inventive artist with a deep love for toppling sacred cows and pushing everyone’s buttons. In his hands, painting and paint become a platform for preposterous visual proposals.
This is the America that Saul has never shied away from, never failed to poke, probe, or give the finger to — a self-righteous country that has been in a race war ever since intolerant religious freedom seekers landed on the Eastern seaboard and began slaughtering Native Americans in the name of God. I love the fact that he keeps hammering away at everything a well-behaved citizen, whether of a liberal or conservative political persuasion, would have an informed opinion about — Abstract Expressionism, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, fast food, sweaty businessmen, big-breasted women, or capital punishment. Saul has a quarrel with the world and he isn’t above using puerile humor, ghastly bad taste, or in-your-face grotesquerie to nettle it.
Saul sees the President as a predatory crocodile — a cold-hearted creature incapable of empathy. There are six paintings in the exhibition, all of them irreverent. They riff on self-importance, make fun of Rembrandt, laugh at climate change because it is all too real. Saul’s impertinence is a frontal, no-holds-barred attack. I want him to keep it up. I want to see how far he can go. I want him to know that I am cheering him every step of the way. I don’t think Saul can be too tasteless when it comes to this disgusting regime.
Peter Saul: Fake News continues at Mary Boone (541 West 24th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan) through October 28, 2017)
I too am cheering Mr. Saul on, we need him more than ever. There’s much more to read and see at Hyperallergic.