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June 26, 2008|PAUL YOUNG

Excitement has long been a touchy subject for fine artists. After all, conventional wisdom suggests that art should be contemplative and nuanced rather than overtly emotional and manipulative.

But that seems to be changing, at least according to Juxtapoz magazine, the 15-year-old arbiter of all that's marginal, maximal and licentious in the art world. As co-founder Greg Escalante says, "people are bored" with theory-laden artworks. "Can you imagine a world where the radio only played difficult music 24/7?" he asks. "That's what museums are like."

Perhaps, but not the Laguna Art Museum, which presents the work of 150 comic book illustrators, neo-gothic painters, graffiti bombers and "lowbrow" artists in "In the Land of Retinal Delights: The Juxtapoz Factor" (ends Oct. 5). Though diverse, the show has a common theme percolating that has everything to do with escapism, the repressed and the baroque.

Similarly, Newport Beach's Orange County Museum of Art has a retrospective of pop-provocateur Peter Saul (ends Sept. 21). Saul has had an underground renaissance of late, perhaps because he creates paintings both urgent and libidinous (think Diego Rivera crossed with Philip Guston). "He's a growing influence on younger artists," says curator Dan Cameron.

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-- theguide@latimes.com

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