Peter Saul (1934, San Francisco, CA, USA).
Lives and works in New York, NY, USA.
“I always do things the wrong way, which is completely empty Territory.”
Peter Saul has been called the father of Pop Art and successor to Surrealism. He is one of the most important artists of our time and a consistent “violator of good taste” in art. He is the founder of the unique style of Bad Painting, which is characterized by a bright palette of colors and exaggerated distortion of images – a jubilant depiction of lawlessness and violence in society, which the artist sarcastically criticizes through his “indictments.”
Saul can also be described as one of the most important points of origin of a lively political incorrectness that has flourished in the United States under artists as diverse as Sue Williams, Kara Walker, Robert Melee and Carroll Dunham.
In the 1950s, Saul introduced the iconic comic and cartoon characters Superman and Donald Duck to his expressionist paintings; in the mid-1960s, he devoted a series of anti-military works to the Vietnam War; and, in the 1970s, he created his own variations on Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” and Picasso’s “Guernica,” always returning to subjects drawn from mass media and art history.
His use of childlike markings and clashing colors are meant to both disturb and engage the viewer. And yet, despite the display of pictorial irreverence, his paintings are grounded in a working knowledge of art history, laying the foundation for sophisticated and powerful dialogues between stylistic formal considerations, political ideas and autobiographical detail.
“The important thing is that a work has to look fresh, to be as original as possible. That means it has to have its own idea and psychology. I try to make it worth looking at, to turn it into a sensation. True or false doesn’t matter at all as long as it’s disturbing or funny, because I love all psychology. Bad things make me laugh just as often as good things. This has been my art style for over 55 years. I am open to any humor, except sophisticated humor. Too many good artists have sought after it. The secret of the success of a “bad” artist is in overcoming the need for approval.”
In 2020, the New Museum in New York celebrated the outstanding career of the artist with the major solo exhibition of Saul’s work “Peter Saul: Crime and Punishment,” curated by Massimiliano Gioni and Gary Carrion-Murayari.
Works by Saul are found in the collections of leading museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY, USA), Centre Pompidou (Paris, France), Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY, USA), the Art Institute of Chicago (Illinois, USA), Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) (Los Angeles, CA, USA), Museum Ludwig (Köln, Germany), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam, Netherlands) and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) (New York, USA).