The artist Peter Saul has always gone his own way, followers be damned. For years and years, he bypassed the art centers of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago for a studio in San Francisco where his storied dealer Allan Frumkin would stop by once a year to purchase a few things and thus, keep him going. Never part of a group, Saul didn’t shy away from tackling social commentary, delivering it with a huge dose of bold, dark humor. His works revel in their lurid punch and manic glee.
At 81, the curmudgeonly Saul still stretches his own canvases at his studio in upstate New York. Despite his solitary process, some of the brightest art stars of the moment to cite Saul as a major influence—and now this artist’s artist is enjoying something of a moment. In the past year New York’s Venus Over Manhattan exhibited his early work from the sixties—and Saul has made new paintings, too, for a show at Los Angeles’s David Kordansky Gallery in April and for another at New York’s Mary Boone Gallery, which opens this Saturday. On the eve of “Peter Saul: Six Classics,” his show of new paintings based on such historical “classics” as Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa and Cabanel’s The Birth of Venus, a few of his fellow painters, all of them ardent fans, to talk about how Saul has influenced their work.