May 11, 2008

"Elizabeth Peyton can really paint"

In Time Out New York T.J. Carlin writes that to paint people is to watch them grow old on an infinitesimally small scale of time, and that sitting for an artist makes the subject incredibly vulnerable. "That is the truth of portraiture and the reason why I’ve been disinclined to like Elizabeth Peyton’s work. Although allusions to Warhol abound because of Peyton’s penchant for portraying the skinny art and media glitterati, her equally thin way of painting tended to leave me feeling high and dry: Instead of being receptive to the emotive qualities of her subjects, I wondered if her connection to them was real. More important, there has also always been a perplexing split in her oeuvre—between depicting friends who pose for her, and working from magazine photos and movie stills of high-profile actors and celebrities. It’s difficult to be wooed by a painting when you feel unsure of the emotional investment of the artist. In this latest exhibition of Peyton’s work at Gavin Brown, her inconsistency seems only more galling because the truth of the matter is, Peyton can really paint....Given the gems in this show, it’s hard to buy into the metanarrative, advanced by some critics, which constitutes the main praise for Peyton’s work: that the artist’s cursory style and content constitute a commentary on contemporary values. In this show, Peyton appears to turn away from conveying a pop-cultural demimonde that may be relevant to the art world, but is increasingly losing global appeal. Instead, she seems to be answering the lure of painting as a private act, which makes one think of another pop-song quotation: 'Now that we’ve found love, what are we gonna do with it?'" Read more.

In New York Magazine Jerry Saltz reminisces about Peyton's early years and her first show at the Chelsea Hotel. "The times changed, and as Peyton became a star, her paintings became psychically static and claustrophobic. There were startling moments—in her 1999 depiction of the German rocker Jochen Distelmeyer, his baby blues can melt you—but her Prince Charmings seemed lost in time, unthreatening, more elves than flesh and blood. Her visions of modernity floated free of anything vulnerable....That’s changing, especially in the drawings. Her swoony weightlessness is sprouting roots and gaining gravity.... Subtle as these changes are, they are promising for an artist that some have feared has been drifting in her own lighter-than-air meringue style, making bonbon portraits of the cute and famous. We’re getting to see what life is doing to Peyton and what it’s doing to us." Read more.

"Elizabeth Peyton," Gavin Brown enterprise, New York, NY. Through May 17.

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