chicago

Peter Saul

Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (MCA Chicago)

It is hard to identify the precise moment when Peter Saul’s work began to shift into its present state of willful petulance, in which the cranky artist vents his spleen in picture after picture of barely suppressed rage. But shift it did, and this retrospective of 30 years of his career traces a journey from wit to whine, from trouble-seeking angry young man to bitter misanthrope uttering shrill Cassandralike warnings to audiences more amused than angered. Therein lies Saul’s special place in contemporary art: like some beloved court jester, he seems to have been granted special license to rant and rave in all directions, and it seems to be his lot to see his caustic commentaries rather blithely consumed.

Saul’s energies have been sharply focused since the early ’60s, when his goofy and glutted paintings first attracted notice. Images such as Icebox #1, 1960, and Mickey Mouse vs. the Japs

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