Peter Saul's Thrilling Tastelessness

Haunch of Venison helps the painter celebrate five decades of luridness

Abstwack expressionism: Clemunteena Gweenburg, 1971 (above); Saul at work (right)
Courtesy Haunch of Venison
Abstwack expressionism: Clemunteena Gweenburg, 1971 (above); Saul at work (right)

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Peter Saul: 'Fifty Years of Painting'
Haunch of Venison
1230 Sixth Avenue
212-259-0000, haunchofvenison.com
Through January 8

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Take The Execution of O.J. (1996). A work featuring Orenthal James Simpson being shot full of battery acid as commanded by his dead wife's ghost ("This is why you have to die," the picture's winged Caucasian cherub says, pointing at a bloody glove), the image pushes a second L.A. riot's worth of buttons while thankfully providing no "constructive" social commentary to resolve its evident moral morass. Much like Pieter Breugel's demonological The Triumph of Death (1562), it's Olympic-grade misanthropy as high art. In this painting and many others confected throughout a laudably cussed 50-year career, Peter Saul puts the Freud right into the schadenfreude and—by golly—keeps it there.

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