Artblog Celebrating 20 Years!   Support Us Today!

Peter Saul tells us a few stories


IMG_8165 Peter Saul & Polly Apfelbaum at PAFA
Peter Saul (left) talking with artist Polly Apfelbaum at the opening of his exhibit at PAFA.

We attended the Peter Saul retrospective preview party last week at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and wanted to share a few photos and a short but interesting conversation we had with the artist.

David Brigham, PAFA’s Director, gave some brief remarks in which he thanked (among others) PEI for its funding which allowed them to program all the lectures, seminars and gallery events they’re doing to supplement the show. Bob Cozzolino, Curator of Modern Art, talked about how wonderful it was to have the show and said “With a big project we all have to be on board. We are a small institution…And everybody believes strongly in the work and in Peter Saul’s achievement. The students get a lot out of it.”

Bob Cozzolino
Curator Bob Cozzolino speaking at the Peter Saul reception.

The show differs from its earlier staging at the Orange County Museum, Cozzolino said. “We supplemented the show from Orange County with preparatory drawings, sketchbooks from Europe from the 50s and 60s….and also Peter shared with us some of his works in progress.”

Here’s our chat with Peter Saul. He’ll be speaking at the seminar on Sat. Nov.1 if you want to catch him live.

The big question is who are you rooting for in tonight’s baseball game (Phillies/Los Angeles)
…(nobody) My idea of sports is that the athletes should sit down as much as they want.

You play sports?
I used to play ping pong. My idea of a game is art. Art is not a dangerous activity. It doesn’t take a lot of bravery to make a painting. If nobody likes a painting you take it off the wall. The only thing you risk is money.

We mention politics and his Vietnam war paintings.
I never could figure out the motivation…the Vietnam paintings are my version of US policy, but the motivation of the paintings is more complicated. I was in California during the Vietnam War. They are my version of US culture as unfolding in San Francisco.

Did you march in protest rallies in San Francisco?

The Execution of OJ, 1996
The Execution of OJ, 1996

I only took part in one march. My ex-wife wanted me to dress up, wear a suit and tie….(she wanted to protect him — the police were cracking heads; it worked–he didn’t get hit)… I signed up to be in a psycho book club–homicidal stories, wackos. (he loves that stuff)….now I watch the True Crime channel. It’s channel #23 in NYC. I’m obsessed with the bad guys. I read the conservative columnists because I don’t agree with them. Why read who you agree with?

Did you ever think of animating your work– it’s so active to begin with.
No because I’d have to work with business people to do it.

You don’t have studio assistants?
No…I never had assistants. I’m simply myself as one person. I tap together the wood. I stretch the canvases, and then I paint the images. The idea is not a corporate activity. The idea is to not be a corporate person.

Not like Jeff Koons and his factory!
Jeff Koons–he’s a nice guy. I know him.

No factory, but still you’ve been successful!
I’ve always had good luck with art dealers. I have kept out of museums.
The only time I’m allowed in an art museum is when it’s a show of grotesques or a survey show. I’ve never had a solo show (in a big museum in New York City).