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Conversations · Exhibition-Related

Shock and Awe: Humor and Violence in Political Art

Cover Image:

Peter Saul, Target Practice, 1968. Acrylic on canvas, 91 1/2 × 99 1/2 in (232.4 × 252.7 cm). Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Joseph H. Hirshhorn Purchase Fund, 2016. Courtesy Venus Over Manhattan, New York

Featuring artists Judith Bernstein and Kim Jones, curators Peter Eleey and Melissa Ho, and art historian David McCarthy, this panel—moderated by Kraus Family Curator Gary Carrion-Murayari—will take its cues from Peter Saul’s use of shock and humor in work that delves headfirst into injustice, war, and oppression. The use of violence, the grotesque, racial stereotypes, cartoon sensibilities, and caricature in Saul’s paintings, on view in “Peter Saul: Crime and Punishment,” raises questions about the social and psychological positions of both artist and viewer.

For over fifty years, Judith Bernstein (b. 1942, Newark, New Jersey) has developed a reputation as one of her generation’s most seminal and provocative artists, connecting the political and sexual. This fall, Bernstein will present an anti-Trump exhibition at The Box, Los Angeles, and a retrospective at the Hall Art Foundation Schloss Derneburg Museum in 2021.

Peter Eleey is the Chief Curator of MoMA PS1, which he joined in 2010. Eleey most recently co-organized Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991–2011 with Curator Ruba Katrib.

Melissa Ho is the Curator of Twentieth-Century Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM). Her research focuses on art made since 1945. She organized the exhibition Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965–1975, which was presented at SAAM and the Minneapolis Institute of Art in 2019.


David McCarthy is a professor of art history at Rhodes College. He is the author of The Nude in American Painting, 1950–1980 (1998); Pop Art (2000); H. C. Westermann at War: Art and Manhood in Cold War America (2004); American Artists Against War, 1935–2010 (2015); and numerous essays about American art of the mid-twentieth century.


Support for Education and Public Engagement programs is provided, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Endowment support is provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; the Skadden, Arps Education Programs Fund; and the William Randolph Hearst Endowed Fund for Education Programs at the New Museum.

Support for “Peter Saul: Crime and Punishment” can be viewed here.

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