Elizabeth Peyton

The criticism surrounding American painter Elizabeth Petyon is sharply divided, with camps of derisive detractors at one extreme and ardent advocates on the other. The critics relegate her to the status of chronicler of the vacuous: her portraits of celebrities, art world figures, musicians and her “cool” friends being no better or no more significant than those found in a tabloid magazine. Peyton’s supporters insist that she harnesses the zeitgeist, that she daringly resuscitated the art of portraiture and painting’s diaristic poignancy at a crucial time in the mid- to late-’90s, and that she uncannily translates the spirit of youth into pigment. “Live Forever,” Peyton’s mid-career retrospective at the New Museum, gives detractors and advocates alike the opportunity to re-examine their assumptions about this artist, with the over 100 works filling two floors of the museum.

Small groupings of paintings, hung in loose chronological order, delineate various obsessions–whether Peyton’s, the culture’s at large or, most often, both…

Her portraits highlight the inherent arbitrariness of history’s finicky graces; what of this cultural white noise will be remembered in 10, 20, or even 100 years? In a sense, Peyton’s Pop cultural memorializing raises this much more serious quandary pitting the Warholian truism of 15-minute fame against the possibility of enduring cultural heroes…

Buy Issue 109 to read Julia Dault’s entire review!

Volume 28, Number 1: Shirin Neshat

This article originally appeared in Border Crossings #109, published March 2009.

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