Sometimes you want to be poked in the eye by the vulgarity of this life. The jolt of pain and swirl of distortion triggers your brain to see the pulsing nonsensical core of things. A bland existence taken so far to the other extreme that all the cartoons you have experienced seem gray and quicksand bound. Peter Saul paints the slime-trailing slobs and block-headed zombies that inhabit our world. There is no glamour in this world, it is stripped of pretty things. The beauty is in the technicolor mirror image of our doppelganger reformed and dripping with strangeness.
Mary Boone is showing Peter Saul and Jim Shaw together in a show that seems to make sense in how little it makes sense. Shaw has clearly taken inspiration from Saul but has taken his images to another place. Jim Shaw’s illustration has a technical virtuosity that you would imagine the great academies of art would have demanded of it’s students 100 years ago. Here, he is showing us familiar cartoon imagery as well as incredibly rendered images of the epic and mythic. Shaw is capable of many things, mostly surreal and dangerously personal. Here they quietly simmer with Saul’s work.
In a small side gallery, Saul has given us the artist as an apologist proclaiming “Please excuse my lack of talent”. Saul’s work doesn’t lack talent or skill, but often has existed without the desire of critical approval. The nearest analogous artist I can think of is George Clinton and his Parliament and Funkadelic groups. Though often laughed at as inconsequential party music, Clinton’s brand of funk was mind expanding and surreal. The genius of his music was his ability to create something grotesque and new. Saul is the same, and the results are equally bizarre. His Francis Bacon Descending a Staircase, oozing its gummy pink way nowhere in particular, is a perfect version of Saul’s nose-thumbing existence.
I loved this show in all of it’s oddness.
Across the hall at McKee Gallery is a reasonably good group show with a few Philip Guston works that seem like they escaped from the Saul/Shaw show. They look sadly out of place in their surroundings, without hope of mingling with their friends nearby.