A vanguard voice in the return to narrative figuration in contemporary painting and a brilliant colorist with a razor-sharp graphic sense, Elizabeth Peyton creates small, jewel-like portraits that capture an artistic zeitgeist using a visual vocabulary that could only have been produced in late 20th century urban America. Peyton was among a handful of artists to develop a peculiar hybrid of realism and conceptualism. Although her paintings have clear debts to 19th-century French modernist painting from Gros to Manet, these masters have been processed through an intimate understanding of David Hockney, Alex Katz, and above all, Andy Warhol. Like Warhol, Peyton’s art is, at a certain level, at the service of the culture it captures. Her paintings are enormously seductive in form and content, and they frankly flaunt their celebration of the shallow aesthetics of youth, fame, and fashion. They are also testaments to a deeper passion for beauty in all its forms—from the elevated to the banal.
This first comprehensive survey of the artist’s paintings examines Peyton’s mature work over the past 15 years. Beginning in 1994 with her small-scale paintings of rock idols like Sid Vicious and Kurt Cobain, the exhibition is organized by series—of individual subjects like well-known contemporary artists and historical figures; motifs, including pose and props; and broad thematic categories such as music and fashion. Like a novel, Peyton’s oeuvre can be read in chapters, each of which features portraits of friends, family, personal heroes, and fleeting passions. The exhibition offers a visual biography of the artist while creating a snapshot of the popular culture of the past decade.
A catalogue accompanies the exhibition.
Curator: Laura Hoptman, senior curator, New Museum
Walker Coordinating Curator: Elizabeth Carpenter