Peter Saul’s perfectly grotesque; strangely cartoonish paintings are filled with political and anti-political content. Having been born in the 1930’s, he has lived through an immeasurable amount of political turmoil. His highly illustrative paintings come bursting with endless social commentary, with more than just a bit of humor. Associated with the Chicago Imagists and the west coast Funk Artists, Saul’s style contains heavy influences from pop culture and surrealism. His distinctive style is harshly cartoonish due to the brilliant colors and flattened space. The characters in his paintings have bizarre, exaggerated features such as big, bulging eyes that pop out of the person’s skull, and tentacle-like appendages that bend and stretch clear across the composition. Although this may remind you at first of the cartoons you watched as a kid, examine the paintings longer and you will see enormous nude body parts and plenty of oozing bodily fluids. These hilarious and misshapen characteristics further express his thoughts on these characters; some real, some fiction.
Although Saul’s style is derived from sources many may see as lowbrow, his skills as a painter and an artist cannot be denied after seeing his complex, multifaceted compositions. Saul is a master at taking silly, iconic imagery from pop culture and mixing it with the grim, violence of reality. Experiencing his paintings is a journey through time, as they include imagery of the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King Jr., and Ronald Reagan. However, the messages and situations depicted in these scenes still ring true today. Peter Saul’s long art career is memorable to say the least. You can see his powerful work in person at Venus Over Manhattan gallery in NYC where his exhibition From Pop to Punk will be on display until April 18th.