Although Peter Saul has never been awarded the same accolades as his 1960s contemporaries Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, he nevertheless remains a cult figure on the outskirts of traditional Pop Art. Known as the master of “pop-funk” because of his use of blazing Dayglo colors, he has garnered a reputation as a maverick for his unique and independent style of painting. For more than 35 years, Saul’s irreverent figurative imagery and shocking subject matter have maintained an edgy, apocalyptic style.
Blast epitomizes this unsettling, humorous sensibility. Created while Saul was living in Paris, this expressionistic drawing portrays a policeman who controls the fate of a prisoner awaiting the death sentence by electric chair. Conveying his sense of the social turmoil of the American landscape in the early 1960s, the artist plays the tension between the political and moral content of this image against the formal qualities of his soft, cartoonlike style of drawing.
This is the first work by Peter Saul to enter the Walker’s permanent collection, providing an intriguing counterbalance to the museum’s holdings in the mainstream tradition of 1960s Pop Art.