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PAFA Is Only East Coast Venue for Peter Saul: A Retrospective
Peter Saul, Cold Sweat, 1999; Acrylic on canvas; Private collection, New York ; courtesy David Nolan Gallery, New York.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is the only East Coast venue for the most comprehensive survey of Peter Saul's work ever to appear in the United States. Peter Saul: A Retrospective will be on view in PAFA’s Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building, October 18, 2008 – January 4, 2009. PAFA is proud to announce an exciting and ambitious series of public programs in conjunction with the exhibition that will engage scholars, Saul’s contemporaries, and the artist himself.

Peter Saul has challenged viewers and the art world with his hilarious yet transgressive figure paintings. Unafraid to tackle difficult political subjects or examine both the individual or national psyche, Saul is one of the most influential and divisive artists of his generation. Organized by the Orange County Museum of Art and curated at PAFA by Curator of Modern Art Robert Cozzolino, Peter Saul: A Retrospective is the first major American survey of Saul’s work, featuring 50 paintings and drawings from 1958 to the present, including large-scale “historical epics,” satires of art history, and several of Saul’s most recent paintings addressing World War II and the war in Iraq. PAFA’s presentation will include material not shown at other venues, borrowed directly from the artist, including several working sketches and Clemunteena Gweenburg (1971) from his scathing series of Art World Portraits. Saul will also debut a painting, currently in progress, inspired by Thomas Eakins’s Portrait of Dr. Gross (The Gross Clinic) this fall.

Peter Saul (American, b. 1934) is among the handful of American painters and collage artists whose groundbreaking proto-Pop achievements in the late 1950s and early 1960s were demoted once the champions of that movement were anointed a few years later. Saul has always forged his own path, creating often difficult, funny, and trenchant works—“sick jokes” according to Robert Storr, distinguished curator and dean of the Yale School of Art. His art embraces personal foibles and important events in American history, such as the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. His twisted comic-book forms, artificially hot colors, controversial subject matter, and unquenchable ambition to provoke strong feelings through his paintings have kept him on the edges of the art world while also preserving, for over forty years, the freshness of his work.

“I have long been an admirer of Peter’s work and am thrilled that we’re able to present it to Philadelphia,” said Robert Cozzolino, Curator of Modern Art. “It is true that his work can be shocking, but it should be seen within the context of a long tradition of allegorical and history painting as well as the potentially devastating genre of satire. In this context, Peter’s work makes perfect sense at PAFA as it integrates many aspects of our institutional identity, as a renowned historical collection, teaching institution, and place to make and experience high quality contemporary art. Peter is among the bravest, most accomplished, and influential artists of his generation. This retrospective is a major event.”

Public programming for Peter Saul: A Retrospective will include guest lectures by David McCarthy, Dan Cameron, Robert Cozzolino, Robert Storr, and an evening with Chris Ware; a Philadelphia area art school mixer; a master class taught by Peter Saul; and a special symposium and panel discussion entitled “On the Limits and Possibilities of Politics in Art” featuring Laylah Ali, Enrique Chagoya, Sue Coe, Daniel Heyman, Irving Petlin, Jane Irish, Peter Saul, and Art Spiegelman. Keynote address by David Carrier. Moderated by Patricia Hills and Robert Cozzolino.





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