“I never imagined some of my pictures would be in Moscow,” says 82 year old artist Peter Saul. The San Francisco based painter’s early use of pop-culture cartoon references in the late 1950s and early 1960s has earned him the title of a Pop Art founding father, and to date, he has realized over 800 paintings throughout his career. A colorful selection of them made their debut on Friday at Gary Tatintsian Gallery in Moscow, Russia in Saul’s new exhibit, “You better call Saul!”
The words “sublime” and “beautiful” are not typically used to describe Saul’s portraits of intertwining, overlapping, cartoony figures, more often referred to today as “Bad Painting”: “Bad things make me laugh just as often as good things which is the wrong attitude. But my excuse is this has been my art style for over 55 years, so I get to keep doing it,” Saul explains.
In the past, his subjects have included Donald Duck, Superman, the Vietnam War, crime, cowboys, suicide, execution, Reagan, Castro, Hitler, Stalin and Mao and the art movements cubism, surrealism and abstract expressionism. “I want to be free to paint any picture that will look interesting to anyone, art expert or ordinary person. Pictures that tell stories are my favorites, but more subtle content is also good,” he says.
“You better call Saul!” is a survey of Saul’s rambunctious and hell-raising imagery, including new examples of his unprecedented style of painting that inspired a generation of artists to new thinking and creativity. But Saul admits he’s just trying to make a living as a professional artist: “It was either wear a necktie, sit at a desk all day and talk about money, or even worse, shove heavy boxes around in the back of a grocery store. Instead of either type of job, I decided to paint crazy looking pictures.”